What to visit and eat in Sicily

Sicily enchanted us with its hospitable people, natural beauty, architecture, and fantastic food. In this blog post, I’ll suggest a couple of places which are worth visiting and the food you should try if you go to the eastern side of this beautiful Italian island. To be honest, when I look at the content of this blog post, there are more photos of food than anything else, but this is what I like most about travelling – eating traditional and local food! There’s one important thing you need to remember in order to enjoy Sicily – you need to rent a car!

We landed in Catania, one of the biggest cities in Sicily, so we decided to spend two nights there. Unfortunately, the city did not make a good impression on me. Apart from having an apartment with a view of Etna, trying very good food at Al Gabbiano 2, and experiencing the buzzing night life, I will remember Catania as loud, crowded, and full of graffiti and dirty streets. I spent only one day there so my opinion may be unfair, but I would avoid spending too much time in this city. If you are interested in its architecture and sights, visit this website.

The view of Catania from our apartment and the Etna volcano in the background
Pasta with anchovies, bread crumbs and small grapes…I know, a surprising combination, but very tasty

Not far from Catania (about 45 minutes away) there is a picturesque seaside town called Taormina – click the link to see ten things you can do there. Its beautiful pebbly beach, the Issola Bella island in the middle of the sea, and the spectacular views you can admire from the top of Taormina’s hill will impress even the most demanding tourists.

The pebbly beach at Isolla Bella in Taormina. Beautiful, but walking into the sea is a bit painful…I had a few scratches on my feet!
Isolla Bella in Taormina - translated as a Beautiful Island
Isolla Bella in Taormina – translated as ‘Beautiful Island’
Arancini
Arancini is deep-fried rice stuffed with different fillings like mozzarella or ragu sauce

While walking around the centre of Taormina, you’ll experience lively music performances, an abundance of little trattorias with authentic Sicilian food, and posh boutiques. Taormina definitely deserves the title of the ‘Sicilian Saint-Tropez’! We ate a seafood platter at Osteria da Rita and we highly recommend it!

A seafood platter at Osteria da Rita
A seafood platter with tuna, shrimps and mussels at Osteria da Rita

If you like peacefulness and tranquility and want to avoid crowds, I’d suggest renting out a room at a farmhouse called Pantanelli Di Vendicari. It’s located near to the touristic town of Noto, but far away from its crowds. If you stay at this charming guesthouse, you’ll eat delicious food made from their home-grown produce (aubergines, peppers, almonds etc.), hear crickets in the evening, birds in the morning and simply be far away from noise of everyday life.

Pantanelli Di Vendicari.
These rosemary bushes smelt amazing!
Bruschetta – grilled bread with tomatoes and olive oil. A classic Italian starter – it tasted heavenly!

The farmhouse is located close to the Vendicari Natural Reserve which is a great place to walk around and admire its wildlife. The sea there is crystal clear and the wilderness of the place will release you from the everyday busy-ness of your life.

The beach at Vendicari Natural Reserve
The beach at Vendicari Natural Reserve
the ruins of the ancient tonnara
The ruins of the ancient Tonnara, part of the Natural Reserve

Ten minutes away from the farmhouse, there is the fishing village of Marzamemi, where you should definitely spend a couple of hours. You’ll love its cute little restaurants in the square and the harbour. Be careful though – if you want to buy lunch or dinner in the square, be prepared to empty your whole pocket and still feel hungry. The seafood we had at the restaurant Principino was delicious and fresh but the portions were not generous and the prices high.

Marzamemi, a beautiful fishing village
Gnocchi with seafood
Gnocchi with seafood and ricotta cheese. Tasted heavenly…and expensive!

The beaches in San Lorenzo (the town very close to our farmhouse) are simply stunning. The beach was empty, probably because it was late September so off-peak season, and we felt as if the beach was just for us. Don’t forget your snorkeling equipment as the crystal clear water will allow you to see plenty of sea life.

San Lorenzo beach and its crystal clear water
The beach in San Lorenzo and its crystal-clear water

If you are a history and architecture lover, take a trip to Noto – a town which will stun you with its beautiful baroque-style architecture. It’s know as the ‘Stone Garden’ and in the pictures below you’ll see why.

Noto
Noto, Sicily
The buildings in Noto have a characteristic creamy colour. How monumental does this building looks compared to little me?
Noto, baroque town in Sicily
A beautiful combination of beige and green can be seen all over Noto

On your way back to Catania’s airport, stop at Syracuse. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to visit the historical centre, but we managed to pop in to the Ortygia market, where charismatic fishermen sell fresh seafood and other Sicilian delicacies.

Tuna, Ortygia Market, Syracuse
I had never seen a whole sword fish before. It’s actually massive!
Fish at Ortgia Market, Syracuse
Fish at the Ortgia Market, Syracuse
Spices at Ortgia Market, Syracuse
I mean, just look at the colours of those spices…
Olives at the Ortygia Market

I hope my blog post about what to visit on the eastern side of Sicily will encourage you to visit some of the places and try some of the dishes I have included in this article. Below I will write some pieces of advice you may find useful when going to Sicily:

  • If you plan to rent a car, take your credit card with you. The rental companies do not accept debit cards to take a deposit and you’ll end up paying a lot of money for insurance.
  • Be extremely careful while driving – some Sicilian drivers don’t respect any road rules!
  • Avoid renting out accommodation in busy places like Catania. It’s better to search for so-called ‘Agroturismo’ run by families. It’s more relaxing to stay there and they will feed you with local food at a much cheaper price than in the centre of touristic towns.
  • Don’t be surprised to see the sides of streets and motorways full of rubbish bags. It is apparently a consequence of new recycling requirements which some Sicilian people are not used to following. They prefer to leave their bags on the motorways!

A quick reminder of what Sicilian food you should try:

  • Pasta Siciliana (pasta with almond pesto which is so creamy and delicious)
  • Pasta alla Norma (pasta with grilled aubergines, tomatoes and grated ricotta cheese)
  • Local wine (any type really; it is delicious) and Messina beer
  • Cannoli (an Italian dessert with pistachio or ricotta filling)
  • Arancini (fried rice covered with breadcrumbs, most commonly with a mozarella or ragu filling)
  • Seafood (especially tuna)
  • Bruschetta
  • Gelato (I recommend almond flavour)

Sicilian ceramic Moorish heads- the story behind the head here
A very common sight at Sicilian shops with souvenirs – ceramic Moorish heads. The story behind the heads can be read here

Most Instagrammable places in Bournemouth, part 2: Beach huts

When you visit London for the first time, taking a photo with Big Ben or the London Eye is a must. When you come to Bournemouth, you probably want to capture something which exemplifies its seasidey nature and will later on remind you of the time you spent by the sea. Well, what can be more seasidey than some colourful beach huts? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not comparing beach huts with Big Ben! I’m just saying that they are a symbol of Bournemouth and at the same time very Instagrammable!

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

The most colourful beach huts are between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier. Some Instagram influencers adjust their outfits to the background of their photos and I can assure you that Bournemouth’s beach huts are painted in so many different shades that even the most colour-obsessed influencer will be satisfied.

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

An interesting fact is that Bournemouth’s first beach hut, which was built in 1909, still exists, and you can find it near the Bournemouth Seafront Office. It’s easy to find, because it’s marked with a Blue Plaque.

The beach huts between Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier

What can you use the beach huts for?

There are more than 250 beach huts available for hire, and you can read FAQs about hiring one of them here. People rent beach huts because it’s an easy and convenient way to spend a whole day at the beach with the possibility of cooking (gas stoves are provided) or hiding inside to avoid the wind or scorching sun. While passing by the beach huts, you’ll often see a group of friends, or families having barbecues, or people just lying on sunbeds next to their huts.

the beach huts on the way to Poole
One of the beach huts on the way to Poole
Mudeford beach huts
Mudeford beach huts

If you have a little bit more time, you can have a walk , a bike ride or take a bus to see the beach huts in Mudeford. They are much bigger so you can actually sleep there, which means you can rent them for a whole weekend. If you happen to want to purchase one of these colourful beauties, you’ll need around £250,000!

Approaching the beach huts from Hengisbury Head
Looking across the water at Mudeford beach huts
Looking across the water at Mudeford beach huts

If you think no-one sane will want to buy a beach hut which does not have a shower, toilet facilities, running water or electricity for £250,000, you’re mistaken! As a potential buyer, you would be on a waiting list of 30 people. You can read an article about it here.

One of the Mudeford beach huts
One of the Mudeford beach huts
Mudeford beach huts
The rainbow of colours

Even if I were a millionaire, I would hesitate to buy a beach hut in Mudeford. But while I was looking at the sea from a beach hut’s decking, admiring the pristine beach and the Isle of Wight in the background, I understood that the peacefulness and tranquility of this place may be priceless to some people…or at least tempt them to pay £250,000 just to wake up with this view.

The view from one of the beach huts in Mudeford
The view from one of the beach huts in Mudeford. Would you pay £250,000 to look at it on warm summer nights?

Would you agree with me that beach huts are a symbol of Bournemouth?

Mudeford beach huts

Get to Know the Blogger – Magda

Bournemouth Bloggers

Today’s Get to Know the Blogger is with Magda from My Life in Bournemouth, showing us a little insight into her blog.

Thanks for taking part! Can you tell us a little bit about what My Life in Bournemouth is all about?

As the name suggests it is a lifestyle and travel blog about my life in Bournemouth. I moved here about 5 years ago from Poland, and despite the fact that it feels like home now, I have this constant urge to explore places and areas around Bournemouth as if I were in a new place. I am a foreigner and probably look at things from a different perspective.

DSC09232.JPGHow long have you been blogging for, and what made you get into blogging to start with?

I’ve always thought that blogging was a pleasant and creative thing to do. I was following some bloggers and started thinking that I…

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Most Instagrammable Places in Bournemouth, part 1: Upper Gardens

I have decided to prepare a series of blog posts presenting different places in Bournemouth where you can take some artistic, colourful, original and memorable photos, whether you’re a tourist, international student or local. In other words, the most Instagrammable places in Bournemouth! This first one contains some shots from the Upper Gardens. Walking from the Square in the town centre until the end of the Upper Garden takes about 30 minutes (check the map here).

If you haven’t heard the word ‘Instagrammable’, then you should know it’s used to describe places, food, and things which seem attractive enough to be captured on camera and shared on social media. The Upper Gardens is definitely one of those places, especially with the abundance of flowers.

The best season to photograph flowers in the Upper Gardens is spring or early summer when the flowers start to bloom and their colours are most intense. The photos in this post were taken in mid-August and some of the petals are a bit washed out, but still beautiful!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, the red bridge in the Asian sector
One of the red bridges in the Asian sector of the gardens.

The Gardens used to be private and belonged to one family(!) – the Durrants – until they were leased to Bournemouth Council and are now open to the public. They are divided into three themes: European, Asian and North American, all based on the species planted in different sectors. The Asian part is very interesting due to its adorable red bridges, which are a great backdrop for photos. In my opinion, even a wedding photo session would look great there!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, the red bridge in the Asian sector

Other Instagrammable photos can be taken among bamboo sticks, and you can find plenty of them in the Upper Gardens…if you hide among them, you can pretend you’re on holiday in a tropical jungle…

Bamboo trees in the Upper Gardens, Bournemouth.
Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.

The massive trees from America in the American sector are really impressive and will make you feel tiny…the photos below present the Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum (I’ve always disliked those long Latin names!) from Sierra Nevada, and it’s the biggest species of tree in the world. It can reach a height of 300ft (92m)!

Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.
Upper Gardens in Bournemouth, Wellingtonia Sequoiadendron giganteum from Sierra Nevada.
Look at how tiny I look standing next to the trunk of this tree…

The gardens are about 3 kilometers long, but who would mind walking 3 kilometers of pure beauty…? Our walk ended on the Coy Pond (which is already in Poole) where you can see some red fish.

Coy pond, Poole
Coy pond can be found at the end of Upper Gardens

Have you ever walked through the Upper Gardens and taken any photos with its beautiful flora? I think the Gardens are simply underrated because the main tourist focus is the beach. But give it a try, you’ll enjoy them at any time of the year!

Upper Gardens, Bournemouth.
Have I encouraged you to go there?

Amelie musical at the Pavilion

This French classic, a moving and inspiring story of an introverted girl named Amelie Poulain who derives joy from being kind to other people, can now be seen at the Pavilion. Astonishing acting, dynamic dance and sensational singing is everything you’ll experience while watching the show. Thanks to the invitation of BH Live and the Bournemouth Bloggers, I was able to see the performance on Monday evening.

The play starts with an insight into Amelie’s childhood and the upbringing she received from her overprotective mother, which somewhat explains her introverted character. The setting of the play changes from a metro station to a restaurant, where Amelie is employed as a waitress. The actors change sets by swiftly moving furniture, which introduces a lot of dynamism. Amelie also uses a flying chandelier at times to transport herself into her cosy room located above the station, which looks magical.

Amelie - UK musical. Picture by Pamela Raith Photography
The talented cast of Amelie – pic. by Pamela Raith Photography

I have to say that Audrey Brisson, a French-Canadian actress who stars in the lead role, is mesmerizing! Her beautiful voice, adorable French accent and quirky ways will make you fall in love with her immediately. My loudest applause, however, went to Danny Mac (a West End actor and finalist of Strictly Come Dancing) who plays Nino. I had goosebumps each time he sang, and the song When the Booth goes Bright became my favourite.

These two are a great couple!

Even though we watched the show on a Monday evening after a long day at work, we didn’t lose interest in the musical even for a second. All the actors who performed in the musical were fantastic! I can’t recommend it more! It will be playing at the Pavilion until the 17th of August, and you can buy tickets here .

*Ad press event- I was gifted the tickets for the musical Amelie, but the above review is my own genuine opinion.

‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie at the Pavilion

*Ad press event*

I’ve always loved musicals, plays and live performances, so when I was offered the opportunity to see and review Agatha Christie’s murder mystery entitled The Mousetrap, I decided to go for it. My excitement got even bigger when my colleague told me it was the longest-running West End show, with over 25,000 performances since 1952! The Mousetrap will be playing at the Pavilion between 5th and 10th August 2019. You can book tickets here.

bhlivetickets Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre

The plot of the play revolves around eight people trapped in a guesthouse because of the heavy snow. They suddenly discover that there is a murderer amongst them. The past traumatic experiences of each character are slowly revealed and the motives make you guess who committed the crime.

The Mouse trap by Agatha Christie is a murder mystery

I obviously won’t tell you who the killer is, not only because nobody likes spoilers, but also because the audience of the play was asked to keep it a secret for the rest of our lives! The play is worth seeing not only for the mysterious atmosphere and the feeling of suspense, but also because of the black humour used throughout the play by its talented actors.

So once again, if you want to see the longest running West End show and experience the nail-biting moment when the murderer is revealed, hurry up and book it here. The Mousetrap will be playing at the Pavilion only until Saturday 10th August!

The Pavillion Theatre in th Lower Gardens.
Located in the Lower Gardens, the Pavilion Theatre is a 1930s Art Deco building where you can watch performances, plays and concerts all year round.

Which is the best town to visit in Lake Garda, Italy?

Lake Garda and its surrounding villages were some of the places we had the pleasure to visit on our recent holiday to Italy. If I could quickly summarise what we were doing there, I would say that we ate tons of gelato and were simply living La Dolce Vita, all while enjoying the sunshine. In this blog post, you’ll see photos from Bardolino and Sermione – adorable places located near to the biggest lake in Italy – Lago di Garda.

Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy.
It’s hard to believe it’s a lake, not the sea, with its turquoise water.

Lake Garda is a popular holiday destination in the northern part of Italy mainly because of the picturesque scenery (the lake is surrounded by mountains), lovely cafés and restaurants, and also the possibility of using the lake for water sports. Most of the tourists are from Germany and Switzerland and German is the language which I mostly heard on the streets. If you are going to the east side of Lake Garda, I recommend going to Bardolino and the ancient fortified town of Sirmione. Obviously I cannot be an expert, as I haven’t visited all the towns around Lake Garda, but these two are really worth visiting!

Coulourful boats in Bardolino, Lake Garda, Italy
The colourful harbour and boats in Bardolino, Lake Garda, Italy. The yellow boat is callled Maddalena which is similar to my name. I wish I could have a boat with my name on it in Bournemouth!
How would you name your boat if you had one?
Traditional Italian Gelato. Italian ice cream. Lake Garda, Italy
Traditional Italian gelato is the ultimate winner. Pistachio is one of my favourite flavours.
Italian ice cream. Lake Garda, Italy.
Unfortunately I don’t remember the flavour of these two scoops, but I remember they were mouthwatering!

Bardolino was the first town we visited. It has a wine museum and winery where you can see the history of wine-making by the Zeni family. They’ve been running the business for a century! There is also a free wine-tasting opportunity and the possibility to buy some home-made wine or prosecco. Zeni family members who work there can professionally advise you on what type of wine will suit your taste buds.

You can also visit the Zeni’s basement, which contains hundreds of barrels of wine and beautiful paintings. The mysterious atmosphere of the place will transport you into another world. You can also eat some Italian antipasti there while drinking wine from the family’s collection.

Bardolino, wine museum. Zeni's family.
Walking amongst barrels of wine.
Bardolino, wine museum. Zeni's family.
Speechless about this set-up!

Let’s move to Sirmione, the second town we visited, which is located on the south side of Lake Garda. It has two major historical landmarks: the remains of a Roman villa from the 1st century – the Grottoes of Catullus – and a medieval port fortification – Scagilero Castle – from the 13th century. I do not want to include too many historical details about these places, so if you wish to read more about them just click on the links to find out more. But I hope my photos below will give you an impression of how beautiful Sirmione is.

Lake Garda, Sirmione. Italy
The turquoise water simply tempts you to dive in…
Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy
If you search for some information about Sirmione on the internet, a picture of this house always pops up…it is simply very photogenic.
Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy. Italian gelato.
I ate tons of gelato! This was mango and raspberry flavour to refresh myself from the heat.
Isn’t it great how we can capture moments that happen in nature within milliseconds on a camera?
Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy
A swan, turquoise water and a happy me 🙂
Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy.
One of the restaurants with the views of the Lake. Beautiful in its simplicity .
This dog was watching passersby from a window which looks a bit like a prison…he looks so sad but sweet at the same time.
Handmade Italian dishes. I really regret that I didn’t buy one for pizza!
Sirmione, Lake Garda. Italy

The map below shows how big Lake Garda is. You have a large choice when deciding where to stay! I am sure each town is unique and can offer something different, but one thing they will always have in common is the beautiful lake and surrounding mountains which will leave you speechless and tranquil. I suggest visiting Bardolino and Sirmione, but I am sure you won’t regret going to any of these places.

Lake Garda's map