An introduction to ma cuisine + Dubai date dots

What was dinnertime like while you were growing up? Was it a sacred process where you stood with your mum / dad and learnt the family secret to the perfect roast lamb; or did you pick up your own dinner on the way home? Peanut butter sandwich, maybe? 

I know friends of mine who have been making their own lunch and dinner since they were in school. I was lucky enough to have my lunch made for me every day by my amazing mamma. Sometimes I even got leftover Sunday roast sandwiches, sometimes just bread and butter (where I’d wonder if she had dropped the ball on grocery shopping). Despite having a fabulously built lunch every day, the sight of my friend’s home made caramel slice, whose step father was a baker, would send my jealous green monster into overdrive, when I would plead…can I have a bite?’ 

Spoilt? Yes. 

 It was only when I had numerous failed attempts at making my family dinner in my teens where my dad said the following dreaded words: 

No one will ever marry you if you don’t learn how to cook.”

Wow. Even in my pre-feminist years, this hit HARD. 

Grumble grumble…”I’ll show you Dad…”

Taste.com became my favourite place to search for easy recipes. My mamma let me lovingly into her cucina and taught me the basics – like don’t mix tomato and soy sauce – and only ever intervened when I a) made a mess or b) was about to make a grave mistake that would mean dinner for six would taste disastrous. 

And we have already established what my dad would have said. 

So – ten years on, I’m well on my way (all I needed was a little push – thank you Dad). I treat myself to shiny new cookbooks with pretty pictures and I love the process of following a recipe and cooking for others. But it’s my Italian heritage, my love for the French lifestyle and my travels that inspire me every day. Often I’ll eat something at a restaurant while I’m away, or do a cooking class like in India, then come home and recreate my holiday through a delicious meal. It’s also a lovely way to share your memories with family and friends.

So, coming up on my blog will be a few of these recipes and I’m calling it ma cuisine. I’ll share with you recipes that take you places.   

And the guy? Well I’m not yet married, but he does like my cooking 🙂 

 Page 1: Dubai date dots

 This memory goes a while back. My special, special girlfriend – who by the way, is absolutely unstoppable and wildly successful – moved to Dubai to work for Emirates. Not only was I insanely proud of her but it also gave me a chance to explore the city like a local and make great use of a stopover between Australian and Europe!

Michelle took me everywhere in her new city.

From lush hotels and parties…   

…to sitting in major traffic jams for hours, to reaching souks by boat…

  

…to the hot HOT sand on the beach greeted by camels…

  
…to night safaris with shishas and more cute camels. Cuties.    

 
…Between coconut cocktails at Mahiki…

  
…and tasting spices in the spice souk…

  
…there were dates, or tomoor in Arabic. Medjool dates, Mabroom dates Sagai dates, dates stuffed with almonds, dates covered in white chocolate, dates for breakfast lunch and dinner…I make a point of picking them up every time I make a Dubai airport stopover and they are also a delicious snack or dessert that as always, take me there. 

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

EC xx
Here’s the recipe

You will need…

· 200g dark chocolate

· 1 250g pack medjool dates

· ½ cup coconut

· ½ cup tahini


This is what you need to do…

· Split each medjool date lengthways, but don’t completely cut it in half. Meanwhile, melt the dark chocolate in a microwavable bowl. A minute should do it.

· Spoon ½ teaspoon of tahini in the slot

· Dip the date carefully into the melted chocolate and let the excess chocolate drip away

 You can use your fingers…! 

· Spoon some shredded coconut over the dates

· Repeat with each date.

· Refrigerate once they are all done and enjoy.

  

Life is a combination of magic and pasta

London is one of those cities where you can walk down a street and literally feel like you’re in a different country or even a new era. There’s many places in the world where this happens – like India or even Italy.

Cross a provincial border and:
Dialect? Incomprehensible
Food? Different menus and ingredients every cafe, restaurant and market
Buildings? White washed walls to gothic to 18th century to modern…

This year I’ve spent my euros on a few trips to the mothership in Italy – Rome, Sienna, Chianti, Naples, Positano and Florence – and the only consistent thing for me was that food was always amazing, there was always a rich history and the locals were always so warm. I followed them everywhere…

Let’s start with Roma, where I spent Easter. My earlier memories of Rome were that ‘yeh sure it was nice’ but there were so many tourists I could barely catch a glimpse of the Trevi fountain without throwing an elbow. But by spending four days wandering around one of the oldest and most amazing cities in the world this year, those earlier memories have been transformed. Strolling with wonder through those old Roman streets, it was impossible not to lose ourselves in the sound of the gentle clink clink of forks winding around pasta; knives slicing into perfectly roasted artichokes; the whirring of espresso machines; the passionate chatter (or arguing? – we will never know) of the Italians. Something to really behold is the openness of their teenagers and lovers – finding some shade in the Villa Bourgeois also meant sharing what felt like a bed with couples young and old making out. Most likely because their boys are known to live with their mamma until say, 30.

Tuscany on the other hand was all rolling hills, wine tasting, vineyards, truffles, pecorino cheese – and then some! After a long yet mild London winter, the sun was bliss as we road-tripped from Bologna to Sienna enjoying a number of terazzas along the way. Sienna was a beautiful surprise with the most alive piazza I’ve come across, our perfect little terazza at the hotel and THAT view from our window while the church bells chimed.

Once our Fiat finally arrived up the gravel road in Chianti, we reached our BnB nestled at the top of a vineyard. I’d like to think it was the best view! As the home of Italian table wine, the minute we dropped our bags the cork was popped and we enjoyed the view in hammocks as the sun set. Buonissimo. The next couple of days followed in a similar fashion, popping into the various vineyards wide open for tasting at their local annual festival, Rassegna del Chianti Classico. Our trip ended with a hug from our host. A hug! So much love in these parts.

What have you heard about Napoli? Dangerous mafia and great pizza? You would be right, but there’s so much to say about this rich dirty REAL Italian city. I’d been warned – don’t stop in Naples, get a car straight away to the Amalfi and don’t speak to a soul, don’t wear jewellery, don’t look at anyone, etc. But I felt right at home.

It was the start of a special mum and daughter trip and I so badly wanted to show her some of the precious parts I discovered last year. What people are repelled by in Naples (apart from the pizza) I am in love with – it’s raw and it’s wild. It’s real Italy – so dirty though – but so passionate. If you go, it’s a perfect place to…eat pizza (everywhere is delicious if it’s real)…drink espresso with a side of Sfogliatella on the street watching all sorts…find the freshest fruit in summer…understand a little more about the place by walking the steep back streets. To finish a day of over stimulation, be sure to relax by the lungomare with some coconut oil and watch the locals do summer in the best way. Tan envy. 

Positano… Oh.

If there is one place where I could just throw my passport into the ocean it’s Positano (closely followed by the Algarve and Paris, of course). It’s such a breathtaking sight to step out of your car after an hour of winding roads – the Amalfi coastline logistics are complicated – and set your eyes on an entire cliff face of colourful terraces and homes built into the rock.

So many parts of Positano stole my heart. Here’s just a few –

…Waking up and sitting on the terrace with ham, cheese, espresso and boiled eggs while the locals set up for the day, propping up the umbrellas and pushing boats into the water…Lunching via boat to d’Aldolfo, where the menu is fresh depending on what’s good that day, and the waiters run up and down stone steps to and from the kitchen to deliver you delicious home made fare…The dizzying heights of the Walk of the Gods…Beauty in every way at Francos bar. One of my favourite very spots in the world.
…Soaking up the sun at tiny hidden beaches with a side of limencello after a picnic deli lunch…Exploring delicious Capri and baking at Marina piccolo…Speck and pecorino rissotto at the peak of Nochelle, a tiny town built into the cliff – very very special.

Italy has been delicious and addictive and there is so much more to explore. After all, life is a combination of magic and pasta.

EC xx

10 exciting things that happened before June 

Classic me – I wrote this post a month ago and now I’m posting it! Pretend it’s the beginning of June…now close your eyes…
 Despite this dreary, cloudy, windy day here in London I feel really positive about a shift in the last few months. The last month or so I’ve felt a little flat, like something was missing. It was a gentle reminder to go back and think about what I’m grateful for which instantly put me in a better mood. Have you ever felt that? When some things not quite right? Well…it’s gone now…thank goodness.
Here goes:
1) I went back home to Australia…and spent the week with my close friends, family and old colleagues. Sun + love. Bliss.
    

2) I took Will to Majorca for his bday and followed it up with a trip to Berlin.This holiday was so magic… it involved sunbaking by a stunning seaside on the tiny beach called Illetas, driving through squiggly roads and orange trees from Palma to Port de Soller to sail through the ocean at sunset, wound through mountains to small towns to eat delicious, local food. It was one of the most relaxing 4 days of my life and Majorca has a special spot in my heart. Berlin was way more depressing than I thought it would be! See more of my Berlin post below.   

 
3) I started a new job in brand, marketing and communications…decided to scratch the itch I have had and start matching my knowledge of change management and people engagement to do this 100% of the time. L o v e i t.  

                                  
4) I went back in time to a prohibition party with a fabulous girlfriend of mine… we boogied, shimmied and cocktailed the night away in sparkly dresses and feathers. I did catch a might bus home for 88 mins though (less glamorous yet very entertaining). 

  
  5) We moved flat and I fell in love with Ladbroke Grove…it was time for a change of scenery and our lease was up so we moved to Ladbroke Grove, which is basically in Notting Hill here in London. Oh my. Soooo London! So many posh people, weirdos, soul, gorgeous houses, tiny alleys, markets, coffee… I’ve fallen in love already and it’s only been 3 weeks    

                            
6) I hurt my ankle and quit the gym…and also admitted to myself that the more exercise I do, the more I eat! 

7) Shared a bottomless Prosecco brunch with 2 of my favourite colleagues… we giggled for 5 hours over fabulous bubbles and conversation. 

  

8) I went to Sitges in Spain for work...and spent the weekend in Barcelona to get in the mood!

 
9) I drank wine and explored Tuscany…in a Fiat. The weekend was full of rolling hills, nature, fireflies, amazing wine, wineries, outdoors, sunsets, shorts and sandals and incredible views. There were many moments of perfection.

                          
10) Spring started…the sun, the flowers and that beautiful London buzz is back. I survived my first winter and fell back in love with London.                                          

 
Enjoy the pretty pictures. 100 more top things to come I’m sure.
EC xx 

You’ve got mail.

To the ladies…

sharing an email I sent to some of my work colleagues last weekmail

On the way to work this week I was listening to a Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. She speaks about the fact that we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave. I was really inspired by it – coming from a family of 3 older brothers – so I’m hoping you can be equally inspired!

“I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection.”

This isn’t about being OK with sending a document without proofreading. For me, it’s about…

  • being brave and taking risks
  • being brave and talking about your ideas, even if you haven’t developed the plan
  • being brave and telling people your goals and aspirations before you’re even ‘ready’
  • being brave and taking that dessert to a dinner party even though you didn’t manage to nail the icing
  • being brave and asking that guy on a date even if he hasn’t responded to your what’s app (ok so that’s not applicable to everyone..including me)

Because you even if it’s not there yet, you can start by leading the way. Watch it for 5 mins (go on, it’s Friday).

brave
Watch the TED Talk

Have a great weekend and I hope you like it!

EC

Perspectives from Kraków and Berlin 

My recent travels to Kraków and Berlin have been intense – not in that crazy-big-city way – but in a way that creates a heavy heart once you know the history that lays beneath your feet. I’m also writing this draft on the day of the Brussels attacks… So most definitely in a very reflective mood. 
  
Certain experiences in my life reminded me that perspective is life greatest gift. That is why I love to travel – to see things through someone else’s eyes, to remind myself of how lucky we are, to imagine, just for a moment, what it would be like if you lived ‘that’ way. Curiosity of the world fills me with that desire to see things from a different perspective. I genuinely feel that it’s what drives me to be a positive person – there is always someone else who is in more challenging circumstances than you. 

Take Kraków for example. I loved Kraków, for its bustling small town, bright coloured vodka and pierogi (polish dumplings, my gosh), but I was also fortunate enough to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, the German concentration camps where many polish and other european Jews and gypsies were killed during Hitlers reign. I don’t need to go through the history (you can Google it). But what I felt standing on those railway tracks leading into the camp was immense gratitude for the choices that we are able to make. It was a pathway to death for the Jews and they didn’t even know it. They were told they were going to a better life, to better work. Most were gassed within 24 hours of arriving at the camp, or died a slow and painful death through disease or starvation. 

  

When was the last time you thought you didn’t have a choice? When was the last time you surrendered to your ‘fate’ at work, with friends, in your relationship, or ‘having’ to go for a drink when all you wanted to do is eat ice cream on your couch….My guess is that it was probably recently, where at the time you thought it was the worst thing ever. Oftentimes we play the victim, starting each of our sentences with “I have to…”, sighing every time our social calendar gets filled and feel helpless when we get bad feedback at work. In every moment, we have a choice. Even if some choices aren’t your ideal at that time, you still have a choice to feel a certain way, to see things a certain way. Not everyone does in this world. I am so guilty of this, often catching myself having a whinge about my commute to work (I live in central London, have a waaaa) or how busy I am during a week with a social calendar (have another waaa). So join me… next time you are about to think that you’re stuck doing something you don’t want to do, think again. Make a choice.

  
And Berlin… again, had a super crazy fun time with friends in Berlin. Highlight was definitely walking around the arty districts and peaking into all of the packed bars full of young somethings and eating the most giant schnitzel you have ever seen. What I didn’t expect, which seems obvious now, was how… basic the city would look and how stone cold it felt. Those ugly 80s buildings tell us that the city was rebuilt in a hurry after years of bombing and a wall that separated East from West. Imagine not being able to see your family, having to live your life suppressed on the side of a WALL. 

Some perspective needed here. We are SO lucky. 

We can pave our own paths to glory, make that choice, cross borders, apply for jobs, vote, eat whatever, make the world our oyster. I left Berlin with that gratitude and its sitting with me a few weeks later as I plan the rest of my holidays for the year, in my not-bombed London flat, having just started a new job to take myself in greater places. 

Perspective is life’s greatest gift. Every day is just a little too precious to be giving away with a cranky lease on life. That’s not to say you have to be happy all the time…but it’s a reminder to be grateful, non? 

EC xx
Some happier snaps indeed…

   
 

32 hours in Bruges

Belgium has been receiving a lot of bad press lately given the recent discovery of less – than – ideal inhabitants in Brussels. Our trip to Bruges has been booked for months and thankfully we were still brave and keen enough to catch our Eurostar to Brussels on our way
to Bruges for one night. So glad we did… For 32 hours we basically ate, drank and walked. The not so grate part was that even after walking so much will and I both got sick from (presumably) too much foreign food. A week later we finally have our appetite back and can eat without feeling awfully sick. 
32 hours…ok go! 

First stop was The Habit to devour the biggest plates of moules (mussels) you have ever seen. I had the Flemish stew, which I was told was made of “lots of dark Belgium biiieeerrrrrrr, some spices, cooked for long time, with beef”. Highly recommended with a glass of white wine and finished with espresso and chocolate moose to die for. The restaurant was so charming and the perfect introduction to Belgium. 

  
I have a thing for bells. They usually inspire me or make me cry, not unlike fireworks. What is with that? Not stopping us, we climbed the 400 steps to the top of the Bruges Belfry tower… Legs burning, lungs heaving after a big lunch….

 

a sigh at the top
 
It was totally worth it for sunset. And the amazing cello player in the courtyard who had me in a trance. 

not really alone

The Christmas markets were beautiful, tourists flock here annually to sip mulled wine and nibble on waffles. Waffles were on my number 1 to do list for Bruges. Tick! 

 

market magic
 
We sampled Belgian beers in a cute pub called Brugs Beertje followed by a meal of meat, so much meat, at De Hobbit, whilst watching all you can eat ribs be charred on hot coals, warming us all the way to the table. 

 

the way to go!
 
Hours 24-36 involved simply wandering around Bruges to old museums, along the canal and through the cobblestone streets, sampling and purchasing the many chocolate options Bruges has to offer. Did I mention that I think I saw 10 cars and about 1000 bikes? Seems like the way to get around!

 

wandering
 
It truly is a mélange of France, Germany and Belgium itself – such impressive locals who are able to speak all 3 languages. Highly recommend that you visit Bruges at the magical time of year that is Christmas if you would like to see twinkly lights, eat delicious, warming food for the soul and be amazed by a mix of rich cultures and history. 
EC xx

In London, come Winter…

Over the last 3 months the sky in London has gone from fresh blue and sunny, to sunny and dusty in the hottest day of the year (34 degrees, even coming from Brisbane the heat of the underground shocked me), to beautiful fall leaves and now to grey skies one minute and belting wind the next. 

It’s novel for now, this weather thing but my body has been in complete shock through the changing seasons. Here’s 5 things I do differently in the northern hemisphere. 

1. Sleep 

Can’t stop sleeping. For those of you who already know me really well, I cannot sit still unless I’m laying on the beach, drinking my coffee or nose is hidden in a good book. My favourite time of day is dawn and I can speak 1000 miles an hour at 7am (much to Will’s disappointment). Come autumn in London, the sun started to rise after 730am and now I just want to sleep. 

rugged up

It’s important to go with the body clock when the seasons change. One thing I need to stop doing is fighting the urge to exercise vigorously when it’s this cold. It’s more about yoga, walking, jogging when it’s sunny and wrapping up when it’s not. The gym is much busier at this time of year. Less better things to do? 

2. Slow cook  

lentil chilli courtesy of nourish atalier
 

My second favourite investment has been my slow cooker. For £25 I can fill the house with the smell of Coq au vin, cinnamon apple oatmeal and chilli and tuck into it within an hour of coming home. My favourite recipe is taken from Nourish Atelier and must be my favourite to boot. Not to mention the sweet smells of raisin bagels and porridge first thing in the morning that call my name with coffee. 

3. Cuddle. 

Enough said, I just can’t get enough of them. If Mamma was here I would get double.


4. Inside / outside / inside / outside 

 

wandsworth park – my local
 

A typical afternoon might look like this… 

  • Walk to brekky (outside) 
  • Eat brekky and coffee (inside) 
  • Walk back home (outside) 
  • Thaw out for half hour and put on more clothes (inside) 
  • Walk to tube station (outside) 
  • Be on tube (inside) and then get too hot 
  • Go for a walk, shopping, wandering (outside) 
  • Stop for a roast and mulled wine (inside) 
  • Not want to go outside (inside) 

It’s lucky that there are so many museums and warm pubs and bistros to sit and people watch. Makes outside time much more bearable!! 
 

rambling in the cotswolds
 
4. Eat 

I’m not really friends with salad at the moment. Maintaining figure means small portions of the good stuff. Champagne has less calories…

5. Enjoy the Christmas spirit

You know how when you were younger there was always fairy lights, mince pies and turkeys at Christmas? For years I have been very happy with the beach and cold Christmas lunch and breakfast with my big beautiful family. One day I cannot wait to share the twinkle, the festive cheer and the huge emphasis that London has on Christmas and making it truly special. Jolly fun. 

    

6. Get white 

I’ve not yet invested in a spray tan but I am damn well close. 

So many comfy, twinkly, celebratory, belly-filling aspects of Londons winter. 

EC xx

Avec toi à Paris

This weekends horrific events in Paris prompted me to write all the beautiful things that I remember from my most recent trip to the City of Light. Despite devastation, Paris has a special place in my heart and the hearts of millions more and these acts won’t ever take away it’s sparkle. #prayforparis
I’ll never be done with Paris, those poky and historic apartments, the way Parisians carry themselves, the way everything looks like a perfect doll’s house. This trip was particularly special – after 8 long months apart Will surprised me with a trip to Paris and the Champagne region to eat, drink, stroll, people watch and love every minute, together. 

 

in awe
 
The heart of St Germain the 6th arrondissement was our home for 2 nights. A stunning and trendy area of Paris, I particularly loved looking over St. Germain from our tiny apartment. 

gazing

We ate….

Croque monsieurs whilst sipping double espressos at Les Deux Magots…. €50 later… But that’s a sunk cost as I write this (a delicious sunk cost!). 

The most delicious 8 course degustation at Le Comptoir in 6e whilst being serrenaded with an accordion straight off the street. So, so special and quintessentially Parisian. 

 

le comptoir – after the 8th course
 
Rabbit and duck, stumbling upon a packed restaurant at 930pm, up a rickety staircase and brushing elbows with our neighbours – I love finding places like this in Paris! I can’t even remember the name but the memory stays with me. That creme brûlée cheesecake…

that tart…

Of course, croissants and espresso on Rue de Buci watching Paris wake each morning. 

 

morning pastry happiness
 
Having already been to Paris, it was the perfect opportunity to just enjoy and soak it all in …we took un flaneur across Rue st Honoré, Le Tour Eiffel / Garden de Tuileries / Le Pont des Arts / Le Louvre / Sacrecouer et Montmartre.   

beautiful finds on our flaneur

 For the next 2 days I popped my Champagne cherry and I’ll do it all over again! 

 

just one for now
 
There is no way that I cannot come back to champagne and sip on a glass of sparkles from every champagne house, learning and appreciating the long process of making champagne (which you can only call Champagne if it’s from Champagne!). I now appreciate it much more and must think twice before smashing it back like water at the next work Christmas do. 

 

sampling a little one
 
We explored the big champagne houses, mostly based in Reims. Tattinger and Veuve Cliquot were our picks and it was exciting to be in the caves, learning the process before sampling the bubbles. Some vintage bottles are kept for 10 years and a ‘vintage year’ is determined via a group of professionals that ascertain the year with a ‘perfect harvest’. Glorious weather and an abundance of perfect grapes means that all vineyards around Champagne pop their corks in celebration for a vintage year.  

 

the caves where the magic happens
 
Reims is a stunning mini-Paris with more space, more fresh air and vineyards close by. They have a fabulous food scene, where epiceries source goods from all over France and will be happy to explain the details of where each cheese and cured meat comes from. We gazed over rooftops with champagne, drank champagne after exploring the original Nôtre Dame, dined with champagne and learnt about champagne. Frankly my alcohol consumption is about to get a whole lot more expensive! 

Not to mention what we ate…. 

Le Coq Rouge – for Mademoiselle, fish and vegetable chorizo risotto. For Monsieur – lamb shoulder + tagliatelle . followed by a bright green and surprising pistachio and Rasberry creme caramel 

Epicerie au Bon manger – we had cheese, cured meats and champagne from here there and everywhere, articulated to us by a very excited epicurean.  

Suzzette and Sazzarin Crepes – not much to say after explaining the following flavours…. 1x goats cheese ham and walnut crepe, 1 x egg ham tomato and cheese crepe + 2 x chocolate, banana and caramel butter crepes = brunch. Miam. They were made with blé noir, a healthy alternative to plain white flour which made it ok to have 2 each. Right?!

  
There must be another trip to France next year, bien sûr. I couldn’t possibly get through 2016 without one. 

Pop! 

EC xx

Amalfi town

It often takes a special story or a meal to make me fall head over heels for a city. Not Positano. I fell in love before I even stepped off the bus that was making me car sick.

Rounding a corner to see that view…

view

Strolling around Amalfi town.

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Stepping off that bus and winding down a million stairs, before ascending an equal amount before my hotel, you couldn’t wipe the wonder off my face. It was pure heaven and a longing to experience this town with such special people. My hotel, Hotel Savoia, was totally adorable and perfect for me travelling solo. My favourite part was the breakfast and how they knew what coffee I liked.

And the tiles. I liked those tiles.

Positano had my heart from bar Franco Aperol spritz cocktails at Le Sireneuse…Heart shaped pizzas and waiters singing love songs at Chez Black and ravioli at Les Tres Sorelle along the glittering water and the view you get pushing back into the ocean and looking back on the city…the church bells every hour…the chink of forks and spoons into pasta…The wandering, bronze bodies and bright swimwear slurping gelato…

Hardly an utter of english around me. I was immersed and in love with Positano.

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Ravello and Amalfi town, as well as the trips there, were stunning.

I love these perfect umbrellas like rainbow meringue tops.

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And the boat! What a view. Our cabana boy Alex (not really – Denise’s boyfriend who is a total gem) did the leg work to showcase the view. There is no other way to see these gorgeous towns than from the water itself.

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Isle of Capri was a must to be La Grotta Azzura (the Blue Grotto) off a tiny boat.
grotto2

But it is strictly forbidden to swim in La Grotta Azzura. Naughty!

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Isle of Capri was only one night, but one beautiful night and day. Home made and warm waffle cones and gelato, amazing pasta, people-watching the wealthy and the beautiful on the piazza.

But unfortunately…. Sad goodbyes after a wonderful trip.

But we will be back ❤️

EC xx