Spiaggia della Biodola, Elba Italy

The small island of Elba, once ruled by Napoleon for 300 days, offers all manner of hills for bikers and beaches for sun-lovers. The bay of Biodola, about 8 km of winding road from the ferry town Portoferraio, is a lovely cove with mostly limpid waters and a sand beach. Hotel Biodola has its own section of beach with well-kept sunbeds and parasols.

The hotel has a pool with a view, and tennis and golf can be booked in the neighboring hotel. At the top level there is a large bar terrace and breakfast is one level lower in an outdoor restaurant. The best part are the long and large dinners with 5 to 6 courses accompanied by excellent regional wine and the weekly regional buffet.

Near the beach there is a camping area and several beach restaurants with sandwiches, salads, fruit, inflatable toys, ice cream, drinks. Toward the south, some steps above Biodola Beach boat rental lead to a half-ruined path winding around the cliffs and through a cave to another not too distant cove with a pebble beach.

Biodola is a great place for other excursions to Portoferraio with its churches, forts and Napoleon’s town house, to Napoleon’s Villa di San Martino in the valley, and to Capoliveri, a tiny village high up in the mountains above Porto Azzurro.

The Maldives

Probably the most fascinating trip we ever did was to the island Coco near Malé of the atoll Maldives. Not only was the weather near perfect, we also had heard that there are practically no natural catastrophes like tropical storms or tsunamis, the beaches are beautiful, sandy and the water so clear, blue and green.

Added to that are all the wonderful animals and the gorgeous flora of the island, helped on by the fantastic head gardener.

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If you are a fan of snorkeling and diving like us, do try and go there. The resident marine biologist is glad to have any photos of turtles, as there is an active program to save turtles from being snagged in nets and each and every one is being tracked where possible. There is an abundance of turtles, small sharks, fanciful and colorful fish, manrays, etc. When resting from swimming in the wonderfully warm water, we would walk through the island’s gardens, often laid out in coconut groves.

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Or we would enjoy the sunset and the breeze with a tasty fish menu. Or look at the creative Easter decorations of some of the young designers, made of styrofoam and paint on the backside of the large main restaurant.

The massages and treatments were nothing if not luxurious, only the tinny music wasn’t quite to my liking. Very much to our liking was the encyclopedic knowledge of the sommelier who had learned his craft in the middle of Europe’s finest wineries, do try the 6 course menu accompanied by varied glasses of pure bliss.

Tasty tuna pasta

One of the fastest meals I can do of a warm summer evening is pasta.  I am sure to always have a can of tuna in my storage drawer and the rest is so simple. So have a go:

for 2 persons:

150 g pasta    cooked al dente, about 8 – 9 min.

 

150 g tomatos in chunks

1 can of tuna, shredded

150 – 200 g  frozen peas / corn/ cauliflower/ carrots

salt, pepper, oregano, herbes de Provence

 

Once you have cooked the pasta and let the vegetables simmer for about 10 min. in a pot, seasoned it to taste, you simply pour the sauce over the noodles and enjoy!

Buon appetito!

 

Total ticketing tourist tricksters

Okay, my Austrian girlfriend had put this tick into my ear: you ought to go to Bregenz and see the See. No, sorry, see the lake-theater (German: Seebühne) built right into the water. How cool can you get! Very!!

Yes, I can very much recommend it if you like Austria (CHECK, our backyard, unless our politicians come up with stupid ideas),

 

if you like operas (CHECK, especially if hubby is more into the mainstream operatic ones featuring real songs he can sing) (can he sing?),

if you don’t mind being cramped up for about 2 1/2 hours on the hard plastic seat (CHECK, don’t forget fat cushions and yoga class beforehand) (forget about breaks or walking or standing up in between),

if you had a yummy dinner (CHECK CHECK at La Scarpetta in Dornbirn and the Kleines Gasthaus am See, bliss, except fot the three screechers & wailers whose parents couldn’t care less about their offspring’s wails),

So, if you don’t mind all the above- mentioned things, then a weekend trip from Munich to Bregenz (about 2 1/2 hours cramped in a car) and lots of extra cash is just the thing!

Our Travel Agency took out a chuck by charging our credit card the minute we booked with them.- that is a NO-NO. Normally, your card gets charged for 20%  immediately as a kind of promise and the rest about a week or two ahead of the event. Our agency  pretended now to know about this etiquette, but I had a long talk with them. After all, there such things as a Terminüberweisung and the bank will make sure the money is transferred right on time.

The hotel chosen in Dornbirn was the right size and category and not too far off from the Seebühne, about 20 km along the B 190, but had definitely seen better days and did NOT have AC. Nor did it have appeal. However, it boasts a very good breakfast, albeit missing the more expensive choices, but I don’t breakfast that much anyway, and the employees are nice and offer cushions and shuttle bus and those things you didn’t know you’d need.

Our escapism took us first to the interesting Rolls-Royce museum in Gütle (8,-€ adult), then the Seilbahn/ incline up the Karren of Gütle (Oh yes, the view iS WORTH it! free overlook in plastic over the precipice) and a great lunch of Lumpensalat (a sausage – cheese – red-onion- vinegar – oil dressing kind) with good beer and even better Almdudler (what? you don’t know the famous lemonade with herbs?).

The hot afternoon was spent in the Waldbad / Gütleright next to the river or creek without much water in this drought, but interestingly full of big and small smooth rocks and pebbles. The Waldbad offers many treats for families, well run.

 

 

“Carmen” by Bizet is most certainly in all the operatic books and Wiki. The scoop was the fantastic Bühnenbild/ backdrop done by a lady from London with two gigantic hands tossing the cards of fate. At times, the cards will be lowered at ground level to go partially underwater, so the crowd gets emphatic with skirt tossing and head banging and running and splashing each other, which is just the build-up of suspense to Carmen’s tragic end (how did the singer manage that death scene???) – no, I’m not cheating, you go there yourself, please!

 

 

 

 

Cherry cupcakes

What can be more delicious than some cherry cakes from scratch? And it is really simple.

So here goes:

about 3 handfuls of cherries, pitted  or  one jar drained

one large cake pan lined with paper or two cupcake pans lines with paper cups

Mix in a large baking bowl, till fluffy:

200g margarine or butter

200 g sugar

aroma: vanilla sugar or 1 tsp. of Grand Marnier

2 – 3 eggs, one by one till fluffy

 

Sift on top:

200g flour

2 tsp. baking powder / soda

Stir in carefully, making sure all ingredients are well-mixed. Put spoonfuls into your cups or tin. Bake at approx. 190° C / 375 ° F or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Personally, I am like a Poppins and can always sniff out a finished cake or tart a few minutes before my timer can ring. Cool down slowly, the cakes can be left in the warm oven with the door opened.

Frost if desired or if you are making it as a whole cake, try out some Streusel:

100 g each of flour, sugar and butter, mix till you have a crumbly mixture and crumble it over he top of your unbaked cake. Along with whipped cream, deeelicious!

Ah yes, my latest fun line:

Und wenn ich die Schokolade im Dunkeln esse, finden mich vielleicht die Kalorien nicht.

(If I eat chocolate in the dark, the calories will perhaps not be able to find me)

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cherry cupcakes

 

 

Astounding Asparagus – quick + healthy

“Der Spargel, der wächst hoid noa so guat” – said the farmer’s wife just two days ago. (“Our asparagus is still growing so well” from the Bavarian dialect Oberbayrisch, i.e. almost a language of its own). Our best asparagus comes from the best soils called “Gauboden”, especially from the areas Pörnbach, Schrobenhausen, Abensberg, etc. to the north and east of Munich. True, meanwhile I can understand the people if I am thoroughly awake and concentrated, but I shall never be able to pronounce the phrases the way I ought, guttural and and with a certain inflection entirely strange to my U.S.-attuned-tongue.

Ah yes, asparagus! The season – which also applies to home-grown strawberries, so make sure to some as topping on a simple shortcake or make your own strawberry limes (strawberries crushed with sugar, lemon and vodka)   –  is over by June 24th, aka St. John’s Day or summer solstice, so almost everybody gorges themselves on them and then pauses till next season.

Delicious when eaten fresh, full of fibre and vitamins and Bavarian warmth (pun), you can peel them yourself or buy them ready to cook. Lots of good cooks own a special pot to keep them upright and just steam the tips a bit, since they are seasonal and my kitchen tiny, a skillet will also do the trick with the water only covering the stems and a teaspoon of salt. Choose only fresh stalks (check the cut end, must be moist and not mouldy) and of equal thickness. Depending on size, approximately 8 to 11 minutes suffice, undercooked asparagus are hard or squishy when overcooked, a bit like pasta. You can stick in a fork to test.

Leftover cold  asparagus make a tasty salad paired with tomatoes, chopped spring onions and/or chives, Italian olive oil, French white wine vinegar, a dash of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

Great accompaniments are tiny gem potatoes, cooked ham (such as Butterschinken, lemon pepper ham, also Parma and Bayonne), also delicate sausages or veal scallopini,  fresh crunchy French bread, butter sauce with lemon or a real French-style sauce hollandaise with lemon. If I am in a hurry, I buy one from Thomy’s or in deli shops. Then again, nothing beats the real thing!

A crisp white wine (Franconia and Baden are the best in Germany or France) helps to wash it down with an ahhhh! Enjoy it all while the season lasts!