Monday, 23 July 2012

Summer in Forte Dei Marmi

One of the main problems of doing something interesting instead of sitting at home, is that I have to sacrifice internet and my connection with the world.

Although the beach along the coast (Forte dei Marmi, Cinquale, Massa, etc.) all claimed to have wifi, it was obviously a piece of shit and never worked (unless I started walking up and down the shore waving my ipod touch around like a lunatic).

I have been going to Forte dei Marmi since I was 5 or 6, so here are some things to do in the area.

  • The boardwalk is filled with "bagni" or beach clubs, all complete with a restaurant/bar, cabins and umbrellas with loungers for you to rent for a day, a week or the whole summer. Of course, prices vary and so do the facilities. On a budget? Look around for the communal/free beaches. You will have to either burn to crisp in the sun or bring those huge umbrella things. 
Photo found here

  • Apart from basking in the sun and ogling hot lifeguards while running up and down the beach trying to stalk celebrities or the famous footballer, Buffon at his own Beach Club, Forte dei Marmi is well known for it's shopping. With many cute boutiques and typical designer shops. But beware, the stuff here isn't cheap. 
Photo found here

  • Tired of the sky high prices of the shops and boutiques mentioned above? Well on Wednesdays and Sunday mornings, there is a huge "mercato" or market in the square/area (don't worry you'll find it), selling branded/designer bikinis, shoes, clothes, fur coats, cashmere, accessories and everything else that constitutes a woman's wet dream. (Seriously, prada shoes for 80 euros!) There are also a lot of stalls selling home stuff, so table cloths, plates, glasses, whatever. I recommend you go early, like 8:30/9ish as it gets packed already at that time, and it gets hotter and... (going onto my next point)
Photo found here
  • There is never enough parking, so I also suggest you rent a bike if your beach, house/hotel and the shopping area is relatively close by. Forte dei Marmi is always filled with stylish tanned women, with 6 inch wedge heels cycling around on bicycles. How they do it? Even I don't know (believe I've tried, and had to run back home to change into flip flops)
  • The Clubbing here is supposed to be quite good. With some really fancy clubs with footballers and celebrities. There are also a few parties on the beach and I went to one one night, but it was rather average, it was so dark I couldn't see the faces of the guys who tried to dance with me 
  • There's also a luna park in between Forte dei Marmi and Cinquale every summer. They have some really thrilling rides (which are sort of expensive as you pay each ride you go on), but it's always great fun with a group of friends. 
Then there's the food. To be precise, the SEAfood. There are a whole range of fancy expensive restaurants for the rich (Russian tourists) to splurge all their cash on, as well as a small little shack on the beach serving plates of fresh calamari at very low prices

 Looking for something impressive but more in the middle? Try Gilda. It looks fancy actually, but the prices won't force you to sell your house and camp out under a bridge for the next month. A bagni/beach club in the daytime, it transforms to a beautiful candlelit restaurant on the beach, in the sand. Remember not to wear heels as you'll look like an idiot  (like me).  

Service was kinda iffy. They seemed to be understaffed, as they were all running around frantically, while yelling at each other. Not to mention there were enough tables for the people waiting, but not enough people to prepare the tables for the customers. But they apologized and all.

Since we're asian and like to try each other's food, we ordered three dishes to share. 

Grilled Tuna. There was so much tuna that I kind of got sick of tuna for the day. (There was more tuna under that mountain)

Raw fish antipasto. The closest to sashimi i've had in weeks. Pardon the empty oyster shell, I have an oyster obsession and ate it the second it arrived. Personally I thought that the oyster wasn't cold enough.

Steamed seafood salad. With cuttlefish or squid, I can never tell the difference. Each dish cost 15 euros, and was quite a big portion so it filled me up quite nicely!

The website of the bagni/beach clubf and restaurant can be found here

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

LV for Lago Verde! (not Louis Vuitton...)

What do you do when you're buried deep in the Alps, and it's a sunny day? You go hiking of course! At least, according to my dad, who decided to take us to "Valle Stretta" or "Vallée Étroite" or "Narrow Valley" in English, which is politically speaking part of France, but geographically in Italy, about 20 minutes away from Bardonecchia in the Piedmont region.
From Bardonecchia we drove to "Rif 3 Alpini" where you then have to park your car and continue by foot. We went up to Lago verde and then back.

Not being an outdoor-sy type at all, I completely ignored my mum's suggestion of packing a pair of sneakers into my suitcases. Now, I'd hate to admit it but I do kind of wish I did listen to her since I showed up "hiking" like this :

I have to admit, I love this outfit! But I guess it is more suitable to shopping in Milan than hiking! At first, when I arrived, I thought, pfft yeah whatever, hiking my asshole, it's a path on flat ground. NO PROBLEM! But I was so wrong.

It was more like climbing up/down rocks like this! We walked from Valle Stretta where we parked our car, to a nearby lake named "Lago Verde", or green lake. (See map above)

About 1 hour later, we arrived at "LV"! Yes, it is literally a green lake, which should be due to some algae or something. It looked like a nice place to have a picnic and chill, but we didn't bring food so we rested for a while and then turned back.

Overall I thought it was nice to take photos, as there was some beautiful scenery in the surrounding mountains and rivers and for people who like hiking or trekking this would be a  perfect activity on a sunny summer's day.  

Oh and Nature lovers would love this place as well. There are so many multicoloured flowers, green grass, butterflies (and horrible bugs). Obviously not really my thing, as I am more of a city girl (Hong Kong <3) but I must admit it was very beautiful nonetheless. 

After our long 3 hour walk,we were absolutely starving. We have heard that the polenta here is absolutely to die for so we decided to have polenta. (Not to mention that they only serve polenta at the only two restaurants there)

They have three types of polenta here : with sausages and meat, concia (which is with gorgonzola and fontina cheese) and also with porcini mushrooms. We decided to order a bit of each and try them all. I mixed my concia with mushrooms (as I do not eat meat). I must say, although I am usually not a big fan of polenta, this polenta tasted different from the polenta that my nonna makes and tasted really good. Only problem was there was a bit of meat in the tomato sauce and so I couldn't eat any, and I found a piece of meat in my mushrooms too and freaked out. 

I recommended that you make a reservation before you hike, as it is a very small family owned restaurant and a reservation is necessary if you intend on eating here.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Medieval Festival in Briançon, France

I apologize for the lack of posting in the past 2 weeks! Normally, I tend to sit at home a lot doing nothing, hence allowing time for me to blog to the extent that I don't know what to blog about. However, the past few weeks, I have been going out so much, everyday, with friends, eating, drinking, shopping to the point that although I had loads to blog about, I had no time to blog! I guess we can't have it all in life!

Anyway, I finally left Hong Kong for her annual summer vacation in Europe. For the first week, I will be staying in Bardonecchia in Italy, which is in the Piedmont region . I have to admit that I am more of a beach girl than a countryside/mountain girl, and I generally have more fun at the beach, meeting new friends and swimming. In the countryside..I don't really know what to do (well now I can catch up on blogging I guess!). I like taking walks, but mainly around town/shops! The only plus to the countryside and the amazing mountains that surround me is the fact that they are much more fun to photograph.

Bardonecchia is only about 10 minutes away from the French border, and 30 minutes from the city with the highest altitude in the European Union, Briançon, famous for it's UNESCO World Heritage site - a huge citadel/fort built in the 1700s. And what luck! The day we went was during the weekend of the Medieval Festival!

We were taken back in time to the Medieval times,with people and children dressed up in costumes. All waiters and waitresses included! There was a marketplace, full of stalls selling jewellery, food (medieval style), costumes and shoes for those willing to join in and even weapons and armours for kids (or adults) wanting to try out the medieval way of life. Hay and straw was scattered throughout the streets, and there was live music and dancing, not to mention very entertaining "beggars"/tramps to really enhance the theme.

I must say the kids running around the town were simply adorable! The little boys all holding swords and bows, trying to fight each other. The little girls in long dresses and pink or purple head dresses with flowy bits running around living their dreams as princesses in a castle. It made me want to be a kid again to join in the fun! 

We decided to go for some crepes to rest our legs and have a snack. Instead of going for the regular Nutella and banana that I love, I decided to try something new. The crepe flambee with triple sec and vanilla ice cream particularly caught my eye. 

It was basically a crepe with a scoop of ice cream on top, which was drenched in cointreau, and then set on fire! However it didn't burn very well, so a lot of the alcohol remained, so I basically had a crepe drenched in alcohol, but the burnt bits tasted orangey and made the crepe kind of crispy too. At first, they brought me a crepe with grand marnier, but they misunderstood and didnt give me the ice cream, so they brought me another one. Thank god, since the ice cream really helps balance out the flavours.

My dad on the other hand had a crepe with honey and walnuts. I didnt really like it (but maybe it's because I dislike honey and I'm not a big fan of walnuts either), but he thought it was good. I personally prefer crepes which have the ingredients inside the crepe, not folded and just dumped on top. For mine, I think it's acceptable for the ingredients not to be inside the crepe as it wouldn't really work otherwise.

From the outer walls of the citadel, there are some spectacular views of the hills, as well as these little cubby holes, presumably used in the past as lookout posts. 

We soon got thirsty, and decided to go for a glass of wine...and French fries too! (Diet? What diet?)

It sure was a great outing for the afternoon, and the old citadel is stunning, with it's quaint little streets, and water flowing down the middle of the main road in a little canal thing. And being lucky enough to witness the fantastic Medieval festival was more than I could ever ask for!