Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Instagram #17

Instagram, Life, Update, Personal, Social Media, Lucylocket_x
Happy Birthday Rob – Teatro Politeama, Palermo – Cattedrale di Palermo – Absidi at the Duomo di Monreale – All of the carbs on the final night in Palermo – Third time lucky admiring the views – Another shot of beautiful Monreale – What’s in my hand luggage? – Throwback Thursday: Skinny like this again, please – Roses ready selfie – Blossoms & Stone Roses at Wembley with Ashley – Happy Father’s Day

Firstly, apologies for the lack of social interaction lately. This round-up seems so long ago now, but there’s not too much of note to cover. I’ve not really had much Insta Inspiration, as I’ve not done much – but I would like this to change.

June 2nd was my brother’s birthday – we didn’t do anything as he doesn’t tend to celebrate birthdays. This was good as it was the day that Ashley and I flew to Palermo for four nights. A break from work for both of us was definitely needed and we had such a good time. You can find out what we got up to day-by-day in my post: City Hopping | Palermo. We did plenty of walking and sightseeing, as well as eating and drinking (read more: dining). And you can also see what was in my hand luggage.

After a weekend in Dunstable, which consisted of a wedding reception on the Friday night, a garden party on the Saturday and then a journey into London on the Sunday to catch up with friends over a Wagamamas and walk around Hyde Park, the following weekend was the one I was looking most forward to!

Ashley bought us tickets for the Stone Roses back in October and because he’s not good with surprises, he told me straight away... so you can imagine how excitable I was for the best part of nine months! It was such a good afternoon and evening – and I will eventually be blogging about it. Again, apologies – I have lots of content and not enough time. The weather that day was lush and we made it to the stadium and our seats in time for the second support act. I still can’t believe he bought me tickets, as he knew I wasn’t able to get tickets last time – and I realise I have LOTS of making up to do!

What have you been up to lately?

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Final night blow-out at Il Mirto e La Rosa, Palermo

Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
On our final night in Palermo, we ate at another Trip Advisor find: Il Mirto e La Rosa (The Myrtle & the Rose) - a very typical Italian restaurant, not too far from Politeama.

The best way to describe the restaurant is olde-worlde, not in a derogatory sense, just that the decor is quirky and the architecture and furnishings, quaint. The archways between each dining area are adorned with frescos of myrtles and roses, while old books and roses hang from the ceilings. The restaurant is incredibly spacious and extends a long way back - keeping the staff incredibly busy, which may explain the level of service we received... but more on that later.
Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
As it was the final night, I decided to go all-out and have pasta - something I would never order in a restaurant! The portion sizes are always far too large for me and at home, I cannot eat white pasta. Il Mirto e La Rosa do a fantastic job of catering to dietary needs though and there's a whole section of the menu dedicated to those that can't eat gluten - with free versions of most (if not, all) of their pasta dishes. The spaghetti with clams immediately caught my eye and it definitely lived up to my expectations! There were plenty of clams, cooked in a beautiful white wine, garlic and herb sauce - and although there was far too much spaghetti for me (I usually only eat about 50g), it was cooked perfectly. Ashley chose the fillet of pork with apple sauce and that's exactly what arrived to the table - no other accompaniments. When I've been to restaurants abroad, main meat dishes have often come with some form of potatoes and a small side of vegetables or salad - but this was literally just a plate of meat. I honestly think I was as disappointed as he was - especially as there was no indication on the menu and the waitress didn't ask if he wanted any sides or accompaniments. The dish was presented well, but in essence, was only half-done.

Like the title suggests, it was a final night blow-out and we both decided to have dessert. Unfortunately, this is where the service continues to deteriorate - after a long wait, we had to ask to see the dessert menu as we weren't offered anything else to eat or drink and the menu didn't automatically come to the table. However, the list was extensive and each offering came with a recommended after-dinner drink - which I thought was a great idea, even after a bottle of wine.
Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
Dining, Review, Palermo, Il Mirto e La Rosa, Restaurant, Sicily, FdBloggers
I had the pistachio parfait with calvados cream and crushed pistachios - alongside a shot of calvados, which I simply could not shot in one go! The parfait was creamy, not too rich and just the right consistency. The calvados cream was subtle and I polished off the dish incredibly quickly! Ash chose the orange & pistachio mousse with dark chocolate and shot of Cointreau - which he managed to down in one! I'm not a fan of chocolate orange, or orange-based desserts generally, but the mousse looked light and lovely.

Trying to get the waitress' attention to get the bill was a bit of nightmare and we needed to ask twice before actually receiving it. A shame, as everything but the service was fine, in my opinion - and the cost of the meal was more than reasonable. Would I recommend the restaurant? Possibly. Would I return? I doubt it.

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Proper Pizzas & Local Wine at Pizzeria La Duchessa, Palermo

Pizzeria, La Duchessa, Palermo, Sicily. Restaurant, Review, FdBloggers, Foodies
Pizzeria, La Duchessa, Palermo, Sicily. Restaurant, Review, FdBloggers, Foodies
On our second day, we walked down Via Principe di Belmonte several times and there were plenty of restaurants down that street and the surrounding ones to choose from - the majority being pizzerias or trattorias serving traditional Sicilian cuisine. As I'd chosen our meal at QuattroVenti the night before, I let Ashley choose where we ate - and he suggested Pizzeria La Duchessa. This was perfect as we'd spent the day exploring the city and nearby town, Monreale, so were dressed in casual daytime clothes, but the restaurant is informal and we even ate al fresco.

As we ate outside, I couldn't comment on the restaurant, but the outdoor area was nice enough - we were sheltered from the sun and thankfully the street wasn't too busy so we didn't feel interrupted at any point. We ate a bit earlier than typical Italian dinner time, so there were only two other couples eating - most likely, also tourists - so the service remained consistently good.

Being predominantly a pizzeria, there were so many options to choose from - three pages of the menu, in fact - and this wasn't just toppings... you could have a traditional base, Sicilian base or stuffed crust. Both Ashley and I chose the same pizza and as soon as we ordered, realised we should have probably chosen two different ones and shared. Believe me, it was hard making a decision; there were about four different varieties I had my eye on - but the one we chose was very good.

We chosen Sicilian style Sicilian: a thin crisp base, topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, tomato, salami and red onion. There was even some crisp Parma ham in the middle! Now, I absolutely love pizza in Italy and once you've had it, pizzas at home (whether homemade, takeaway or shop-bought) do not compare! I've had pizzas in both Lake Garda and Verona and this was just as good as then (maybe even better than the one I had in Verona!). Of course, being Italy, there's no scrimping on the portion size and the pizza was huge, with plenty of toppings. Needless to say I struggled to manage it all and ate about three-quarters before giving the rest to Ash.

We accompanied our pizzas with a really gorgeous local wine. As well the standard wine menu, there was a separate card showcasing local wineries. We opted for a rosé, which was fruity but not too sweet - and complemented the meaty toppings well. It was also reasonably priced at about 16-18.

For a casual lunch or dinner, I'd recommend La Duchessa. The pizzas were great, local wine went down a treat and the service throughout was good. I don't think any of the waiting staff are Sicilian, but nothing was too much trouble and we were well looked after. Their English was also excellent. We had seen online about there being a little dog, who sat outside the restaurant without bothering diners or passers-by - he was very well behaved and not a nuisance at all. It's a shame we weren't staying longer, as I am sure we would have returned - especially as there were so many pizzas to sample!

Love, Lucy xx

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Comfort food at QuattroVenti, Palermo

QuattroVenti, Comfort Food, Palermo, Sicily, FdBloggers, Travel, Restaurant, Review
Before going away, I did some quick research into places to go for dinner, as the majority of restaurants were towards the city centre - some 2.5km from our hotel - and one place stood out amongst the rest: QuattroVenti. Luckily, once in Palermo, we were able to reserve a table via the booking app on Trip Advisor, making it so much easier than calling, or failing to book and being turned away! I'm glad we did book though, being a Saturday night, it was busy!

The restaurant prides itself on fresh ingredients and comfort food, with a lot of the options on the menu being described as "slow food" (nope, I still don't know what that means either!) and having been unable to find a translated menu online in the lead up to the evening, I was very much looking forward to seeing what would be on offer.

First things first - the restaurant is absolutely beautiful. The decor is really modern and sophisticated, yet the ambience is almost that of a typical trattoria. This is perfect for couples dining, as it has that really cosy level of intimacy, without having the tables so close together you're intruding others. As you enter the restaurant, there's an extensive bar down one side; while the restaurant is split into two sections - one of which must be group friendly. I immediately felt comfortable, the staff's English was almost perfect, with a great level of service to match.

As well as the a la carte menu, there were also two taster menus: a land-based option and a sea-based option, with optional wine pairings, should you wish. These needed to be ordered for the whole table and with about four courses on offer, we gave this a miss. It was reasonably priced though, when comparing to the a la carte menu.
QuattroVenti, Comfort Food, Palermo, Sicily, FdBloggers, Travel, Restaurant, Review
I let Ashley choose the wine and I can't remember what it was exactly, but it was a white wine, which wasn't too dry and complemented our choice of meals perfectly. And it's a good job we didn't order starters, as there was no chance of going hungry. It wasn't long before two cute wooden boxes arrived to the table - one with breadsticks and the other, assorted bread rolls. Because I don't eat white bread, I only had two breadsticks - however, I could not resist when another waiter brought some pizza rolls over. They were just too good to resist: fresh dough, chopped tomatoes (that actually tasted like tomato!) and topped with herbs. Thankfully, my dinner was carb-free...
QuattroVenti, Comfort Food, Palermo, Sicily, FdBloggers, Travel, Restaurant, Review
I chose the fish of the day, which I honestly could not translate - but it was a meaty fish, similar to a tuna steak. It was so fresh and came served in an aromatic broth with pak choy, red peppers & chilli and coriander cress. It was such a simple and light dish, executed well and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ashley chose the risotto, which was packed full of vegetables including artichoke, broad beans and peas, with ricotta and fragranced with orange. It was basically summer on a plate - really vibrant in colour. There were a lot more fish options than meat, so be aware if that's not your thing!
QuattroVenti, Comfort Food, Palermo, Sicily, FdBloggers, Travel, Restaurant, Review
Once our empty plates were taken away and we decided on viewing the dessert menu, a plate of amaretti biscuits and almond biscotti were served - my favourite! It was a lovely touch and the only restaurant we ate at that provided little extras - well worth the cover charge, in my opinion! We both decided we couldn't manage a dessert each and luckily, we both had our eyes on the same one: the apple tart. Layers of pastry and apple merged to form a really beautiful looking flower and the tart was served in a pool of cinnamon custard and topped with vanilla ice cream. The dessert wasn't too rich and the cinnamon custard was absolutely heavenly, just thin enough. As much as I enjoyed it, there's no way I could have managed a whole bowl to myself.

In all, it was a really lovely evening: good food, wine, ambience and company - certainly worthy of its praise online. I think I would go as far as saying it was my favourite meal in Palermo and the restaurant just suited me, if that makes sense?

Love, Lucy xx

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

City Hopping | Palermo

Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Day 1
On our first day, we walked nearly 20km and saw most of the city's sights by foot. Our hotel was around 2.5km from Politeama, in the heart of the city. This was our first stop of the day, where we sat and admired the piazza and teatro. Going down any of the side roads, you're not short of cafes, restaurants and shops - although the high-end brands are all down Via della Liberte. The buildings and architecture was truly beautiful and the day's highlights included Teatro Massimo, Catedrale di Palermo, Quattro Canti (a beautiful baroque square, octagonal in shape, with facades and fountains in four of the diagonal corners) and San Giuseppe dei Teatini (another church). We even went out further to the port, along the front - although there weren't any cruise ships docked, mainly freightliners.

Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Day 2
Although we had already seen the majority of the sights on foot, we jumped on the 'Hop On Hop Off' tourist bus today. For 25pp, we had 24 hour access to two routes, as well as the option of visiting neighbouring town, Monreale. We decided to sit on the bus the whole way round - no need to get off as we'd seen everything! - from the central point of Politeama, before switching to a different bus to visit Monreale. It was a beautiful little town and very quiet (possibly as it was Sunday), with narrow, steep cobbled streets and more examples of ornate architecture. Here, we saw the Cathedral and although we didn't go inside, from the outside, it was spectacular. The views across the city were also incredible and it was nice to look out, take some panoramas and get some air. We spent two hours here, but it's easy to spend longer - just getting lost down the winding streets, or relaxing with an Aperol in one of the bars.

Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Palermo, Sicily, Italy, TBloggers, Travel, City Hopping, Wanderlust
Day 3
Today, we walked further out from the city centre... I wanted to see Palermo's football ground, which was actually really underwhelming - on a main road, it looked quite run down and we didn't enter the gates. Ashley also wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, on Piazza Vittorio Veneto. We'd gone past it en route from the airport to hotel and although it's a bit out-the-way, it's worth a glimpse, for the sheer magnitude of the obelisk. Later on in the day, we took the metro to the Catacombe di Cappuccini, following a recommendation from one of Ash's clients. Now, here's where I sound really ignorant - but I had no idea what a catacomb was, so didn't know what to expect. Going underground was certainly an experience, but it's the sort of place you can't really spend more than half an hour - I found it very eerie.

Of course, we ate and drank a lot and my next three posts will reveal which restaurants we went to.

Have you been to Palermo before? Share your recommendations below.

Love, Lucy xx