Memorable meals [ November 11th, 2014 ] Posted in » Articles, Food, Travel articles

The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar

The Rock Restaurant, Zanzibar

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to eat in some top quality restaurants in the UK and around the world.  But, while gourmet food is always fantastic at the time, I’ve come to the conclusion that memorable meals are really made so because of the location, the occasion and the people they are shared with.

One of my most unforgettable meals was a stuffed butternut squash, cooked over an open fire in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.  The fact that the guide leading our trip bothered to make such an intricate and tasty dish with only a wilderness camp fire for an oven still amazes me.  The act of sitting under the stars to share it with new friends from around the globe and our local guides from a neighbouring village in Botswana before we all embarked on camp fire tales and singing made it a meal to remember forever.

When it comes to scenic restaurants, a couple of places top my list.  In Israel, we once ate at The Red Sea Star restaurant which is underwater in the Red Sea.  I no longer have any clue what I ate on the night, but I’ll never forget the bizarre experience of eating a three course meal as beautiful species such as Red Sea Clownfish, Lionfish and the odd turtle swam past the windows.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t eat fish.

On the beautiful island of Zanzibar, we once spent a very happy lunchtime eating at The Rock Restaurant, a tiny little place on an islet just off the beach.  The view out across the Indian Ocean was breathtaking and part of the fun was wading back to shore after our meal, when the islet had become cut off by the high tide.

Without doubt though, top of the memorable meals list for me was a dining experience we shared in a rural family home in Vietnam, after a morning visit to the villagers involved in an micro financed project we were supporting.  We were invited into the home of a local lady who showed us how to cook a delicious range of traditional Vietnamese dishes, including fresh spring rolls, which were fried over the open fire in her kitchen.  For us  the very fact that we’d been invited into a village home made it a very special meal for us.  I think we provided some reciprocal enjoyment for our host too, because she was most amused by our attempts to use chopsticks to turn the food frying over the open fire.  Thankfully, she intervened and deftly flipped them, or we’d have frazzled them for sure.

It was simple home cooked food, but in a place and with people I will never forget.





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Beautiful Broads

Norfolk Wildlife Trust boat

Norfolk is a gorgeous county. Many of its coastal towns and villages, such as Cley and Brancaster Staithes are still wonderful havens of peace and tranquillity, where the simple holiday pleasures of rock pools, buckets and spades and great seafood still rule the day. Perfect for a relaxing English  seaside break. Just a little further inland, are the Norfolk Broads; a winding trail of waterways that provide a haven for birds and wildlife.

Inspired by the glorious early June weather, we decided to head off to the Broads recently, in search of British birds and wildlife.

A bit of research lead us to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust which manages a number of nature reserves in the region.  We’d booked ahead to join one of their wildlife spotting boat trips and duly joined skipper Maurice and a couple of other visitors for what turned out to be a truly idyllic two hour journey through the reed beds.

It was like stepping back in time.  On the larger expanses of water, people were busy with the traditional ‘brown boat’ sailing dinghies, streaming along in the wind, for all the world as if they’d just dropped out of ‘Swallows and Amazons’.  The more sedate sailors were pottering around on houseboats and day cruisers, or sitting on deck in the sunshine with a mug of tea.Coltishall riverside pub

On our eco friendly electric boat, we were able to chug quietly up and down some of the narrower channels, keeping a sharp eye open for anything interesting along the way. We were rewarded with close up views of many birds, including Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers and there were so many Marsh Harriers soaring on the thermals above us that we lost count.  Our eyes popped as we saw a grass snake swim from one side of the reed bed to the other and Swallowtail butterflies fluttered around in a mesmerising aerial dance.

A one stage, we briefly left the boat and climbed to the top of the Trust’s special viewing platform, to take in a panoramic view of the Norfolk Broads, with sailboats dotted like tiny handkerchiefs in the distance.  We fancied that we might have glimpsed one of the region’s breeding pairs of Cranes, but had to concede that it was in fact a Grey Heron lurking to fool us.

Topped off by a pleasant saunter around the reserve’s nature trails and finally a leisurely pub lunch, it would be hard to imagine a more perfect English summer’s day out.  It didn’t cost the earth, we learned a lot about the area and our visit helped to provide a little bit of the money that the Trust needs to keep protecting this precious environment for generations to come.

Who could ask for more?

June 21st, 2010 | Comments Off on Beautiful Broads

Magical Morocco

Camel train Sahara Desert, Morocco

Although it was something of a whirlwind trip – stopping off at more than 10 towns and villages during a two week visit – a recent trip to Morocco was absolutely fantastic.

There’s something utterly beguiling about sleeping under the stars in the Sahara Desert and boy, is it cold at night!  Sleeping is perhaps an overly ambitious description of the experience, because when you are sharing a section of sand with another 10 bodies, all at similar odds between sleep and wakefulness, it’s hard to get any meaningful shut eye.  That’s without factoring in the camels wandering around the camp and the spectacle of being under an inky midnight blue sky, showered with brilliant stars. A bit surreal, but definitely not to be missed.

Between visits to the major cities of Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech, we had chance to get somewhat off the beaten track and visit some remote villages in the Atlas Mountains, where the daily life of local people is still influenced by long standing traditions.  There was stunning scenery, bracing air and brisk exercise to be enjoyed (apart from the handfulSkala Du Port, Essaouira of people who cheated and hoofed it up on a mule that is) as we hiked up to Armd village for the night.  Traders had set up little stalls with Berber goods for sale and after some hard bartering, I found myself in possession of a rather fetching hand knitted woollen beanie hat.  It came in useful, as the mountains gave us another breath sucking insight into quite how cold Morocco gets in some places.

In Essaouira, we had the lCafe Des Epices. Marrakechuxury of two days to potter around the town, to enjoy the active bustle of the fishing port and chill out at pavement cafes in the Medina, where we sipped the most glorious freshly squeezed orange juice – definitely the best we’d ever tasted.  Another highlight here was a visit to the local Hammam, but that’s another story…

As we neared the end of the trip, we set off for Marrakech, stopping en route to watch the famous goats of the Marrakech-Tensift-El Haouz region, which nimbly climb trees to eat the fruits of the Argan tree.  Quite an astonishing sight.

Marrakech was everything we’d hoped for. Vibrant and hectic, full of curious smells and sounds and with a souk worth getting lost in for a couple of hours.  In Djemaa El-Fna Square we watched agog as colourful characters entertained the masses with acrobats, magic, storytelling and dance, whilst nearby stalls served steaming bowls of food scooped from bubbling vats.  Courage failed us though and we didn’t tuck in, but headed instead to the Earth Cafe Marrakech, where we sank gratefully into their comfy cushions to enjoy some superb vegetarian food.

Our trip was arranged through G Adventures which made it possible to see so many fascinating aspects of the country in a limited amount of time.  Our travelling companions were delightful – there was a staggering 65 year age span between the youngest, at 19, to the oldest, who at 84 was an inspiration to all of us.

It’s a joy to know that life really is what you make of it, whatever age you are.

December 1st, 2009 | Comments Off on Magical Morocco

Latest exhibition news

I’m really pleased to be taking part for a second time in the Wakefield Hospice Art Exhibition at QEGS. Held in support of the hospice, 20% of all sales fees go to the hospice funds, to help with patient care.

The exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 31st October to Monday 2nd November between 10.00am and 6.00pm at the Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Northgate, Wakefield.

From December 7th, I will also be exhibiting work in the ‘Big Hang’ exhibition at Sheffield’s exciting new Arts Centre, Bank Street Arts. With work from a wide range of artists on sale, this will be a great exhibition to take in during those tedious Christmas shopping trips and could well be the place to head for some unusual and creative Christmas gifts this year.

October 12th, 2009 | Comments Off on Latest exhibition news

Summer Exhibition at the Clock Tower Gallery Sheffield

A Star in Stripes

Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital has a great ‘Arts in Health’ programme and as part of this, operates The Clock Tower Gallery, which is going from strength to strength and is gaining a reputation for showcasing some excellent work by a wide range of artists. The gallery is open to everyone, not just hospital staff and patients.

Their latest exhibition is the Summer Open, which commences on 15th July and will run until 5th August and will include work from artists of all kinds, including painting, fine art, jewellery and photography.

I will have three pieces in the exhibition and have selected the favourites from my recent ‘Aspects of Africa‘ solo exhibition.  The last exhibition in which I participated at the Clock Tower Gallery had some terrific work on show and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s work at this latest show.

Most work is for sale and 25% of the sales proceeds are donated back into the hospital’s Arts in Health programme, so it is a good chance to get a unique piece of art work for your home whilst also supporting a very good cause.

The Clock Tower Gallery is at the Northern General Hospital, Herries Road, Sheffield and can be found in the clock tower, near the entrance to the Chesterman Wing.

June 18th, 2009 | Comments Off on Summer Exhibition at the Clock Tower Gallery Sheffield

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