Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wine can only be described as 'bottled poetry'

So, on our second day of job hunting in late Nov last year, we both scored a Christmas temp job without any interview….sweet! It was only 3 weeks work, but hey, it was on the phones taking incoming wine sales calls for the second biggest wine distributor in the world – Laithwaites wine…how hard could it be! We definitely didn’t expect to get work so quickly, but were pretty happy to be recouping some dosh straight away. So after 2 days training (the standard is 2 weeks), we were on the phone to customers taking their Christmas orders. We pretty much loved the job instantly….maybe at the point that we found out we would be getting 40% discount off wine and regular tastings whilst on the phone to customers! We made it known (not so subtly) that we were keen to continue working after Christmas and were stoked to be selected to stay on with guaranteed work until the end of March. So, needless to say our wine consumption since November has increased considerably but it is a little hard to resist quality bottles that we can get for under 10 Aussie bucks! We bought 30 bottles and 4 magnums just before Christmas and I'm not even going to mention how many we have got through. Most of them Tim has drunk anyway! lol. Honestly, the wine we have been able to try has been absolutely incredible! Up until this point, we haven’t really tried a lot of wine from outside of Australia and New Zealand, but we are discovering that there are some pretty special wines from around the world to be experienced. I say ‘experienced’ for a reason, because wine is about so much more than the taste! The only way I can really describe it is ‘wine is poetry in a bottle’….unfortunately I can’t take credit for that quote, but I read it somewhere recently and thought ‘yes!!’ that is exactly what it is. There is so much complexity in wine and it is a real buzz for us to be learning more about it. There are not many things in this world that have been created for pure enjoyment (other than chocolate of course!), but wine is one of them and we are just a little bit happy that we can be on the receiving end of that enjoyment. Our current favourites are from the Rioja region in Spain and Puglia in Italy.

When we reflect on our discussions for 2 years leading up to this trip when we said what we really wanted to do was experience the world through food and wine, we feel pretty blessed to have these jobs.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Love to know who's reading our blog....comments please!!

Hey guys! We've noticed lately that our blog has been getting quite a few hits but people aren't commenting on any of our posts. We would love to know if you are reading it and what you think! Feel free to comment! ;-)

A winter wonderland and the feeling of being a kid again.

So, if you’ve watched the news recently, you will know that the UK has had copious amounts of snow. Apparently, the most snow in this area (Cheltenham) since 1992! Now, despite the snow having melted away and it being miserably wet right at this moment (which is classic UK winter) we have to tell you how amazing it was to experience the snow that we did, as corny as it may sound.

We had to get up early for work on the morning after it snowed and having no idea that it had, I looked out the window and was shocked! It was one of the most surreal and beautiful things that I have ever seen – a blanket of white covering everything in sight! A winter wonderland! Although I probably shouldn’t admit this, I instantly regressed to being an excitable child and all I could do was shout…. ‘It’s snowing’ over and over! Yes, I’m sure you can imagine it! The English dreary winter had disappeared and we completely forgot how cold it was. We watched as people in our court tried to get out of the driveway in their cars to go to work with no success and having to return to their car park. We certainly weren’t going far that day! Which was a relief, because all we wanted to do was get out and play in it! Needless to say, that’s what we did…..after we put on a few layers that is!

One thing I learned that day is how much we need to do things that connect us to the feeling of being a kid again. We get so caught up in the responsibilities and stresses of daily life that we often don’t give the time to appreciate the innocent fun to be had and the feeling of freedom that goes along with it.

"If my heart can become pure and simple, like that of a child, I think there probably can be no greater happiness than this." - Kitaro Nishida

Sal :-)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My really slack version of our final days in France including the highlights and lowlights

Cont'd from previous post - From Saint Emilion we visited Bordeaux for a day and then drove north to a little medieval town called Vitre where we stayed in a B&B in the middle of nowhere. From Vitre we drove to Saint Malo on the coast and then stayed at a nearby village called Saint Marcan. We visited Le Mont-Saint-Michel, an amazing fortified city built on a rock offshore. From there we continued along the coast toward Calais and stayed overnight at another small village called Etretat. From Etretat we headed to Calais where we caught the ferry back to the UK. From the time we arrived in Spain to our arrival in Calais, we drove approximately 2000km!! Now that you have an account of the last leg of our road trip journey through France, here are the highlights…..

· Our time with Agnes & Roland, our B&B hosts in Saint Emilion – we practiced our French with them, had lots of laughs, we were fed the most amazing croissants fresh from the bakery every morning, they shared their famous Cognac with us which blew our socks off and they were so kind to help us plan our road trip route to Calais to avoid paying motorway tolls.

· We had a tour of the underground Monolithic Church and Catacombs in Saint Emilion – amazing to see an ancient Church that had all been carved out of underground rock. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos. It was fascinating!

· Crème Brulee – OMG!!!! Amaaaaazing!!! My new favourite dessert! I ordered it from every menu that had it on the list!

· The beauty of Bordeaux – simply stunning. We had some great wine there too in a funky little wine bar. Surprisingly it was the only wine (other than the 200 Euro bottle) that we enjoyed in France! We discovered at that point, that maybe our palate was a bit biased toward Aussie wines. We saw a really good jazz band playing in the street and an ‘out of this world’ chocolate shop that had high heels, wine bottles and insects all made out of chocolate!! Tim was in his element when he found a Nissan dealer that contained his dream car. Needless to say, he posed for a few photos.

· Rocking up to a B&B in the middle of nowhere late at night and being met with such a nice host. We then toasted chestnuts on the fire and shared in some potent French spirit called calvados (made with distilled apple cider and 50% alcohol) that according to Tim, is good enough to clean your car engine with!

· French bakeries – no words can describe the delights that are contained inside these culinary heavens…..our personal favourite, Croissant Almandes.

· Le Mont-Saint-Michel. What an amazing place!! A fortified city built on a rock offshore with an absolutely stunning Abbey right on the peak. Apart from being a bit of a trek to get to the top, it was such a surreal experience. One that is a bit difficult to describe – if you’re in France, it should be near the top of your list as a place to visit.

And the low lights……

· The French obviously have a fettish for that gross cherry flavour! You know the one, the flavour that tortured you throughout your childhood every time your Mum fed you brondicon (red medicine) to get rid of a nasty cough! Well, we were fooled several times, by sweet things that looked amazing but were completely spoiled as soon as we took a bite and those childhood memories kept flooding back! Ahhh!

· The bloody road tolls – if you’re thinking of taking a road trip through Europe, you may want to consider factoring these into your budget. We’re talking up to 10 Euros just to travel for 50km down a motor way!

· The raw meat – it seemed that French chefs like to undercook their meat….despite only beingin France for a week, in that time we managed to have served raw chicken and two raw steaks that were literally still mooing on the plate!

· Remote France was a bit stressful at times – trying to find accommodation proved challenging and when we found somewhere to stay it was usually with people that could not speak a word of English. We also found that it was difficult to find food in these remote places and if you know me, you know that you don’t really want to be around me when I am extremely hungry! Not pretty!

· One night in a remote village called Saint Marcan, we finally found a hotel restaurant that was open and this certainly turned out to be an experience. First, it took us a while to decipher the menu with our culinary food reader and we discovered that we had the choice of fish, fish, fish, or pork. We managed to find a chicken dish, which I had, and Tim had crepes with ham and cheese. The meal also included an entrée and a dessert and for 15 Euros which each we thought this was ok (for Europe). To cut a long story short, the only way of describing the food that was served was it reminded us of hospital food. We were flabbergasted when our entrée came out which was a whole cut up tomato on a plate with tinned beetroot, grated carrot and lettuce. The description of this dish on the menu referred to seasonal vegetables….hmmmm. Basically your typical hospital salad plate! Then the mains – well mine was a cold quarter of chicken with hot mash pumpkin, ‘left over’ potato bake and some gerkins and pickled onions on the side. Tim’s crepe was oily and apparently tasted like he was eating breakfast! Our dessert was a crème caramel that neither of us could finish because it was so sickly and obviously not homemade. Of course the food was perfectly ok to eat, but we just could not believe that a ‘fancy’ restaurant would serve this type of food and charge 15 Euros a head!! We ended up having a good laugh over it though and were thankful that at least we got to eat that night because we had previously been skipping a few meals because of not being able to find food!

So there you have it….prob not as much detail as previous posts, but you get the gist. It was a bit sad, knowing that this would be a last bit of travelling for a little while….we were running out of money and were gearing ourselves to find work when we got back. We arrived back in the UK on Nov 23 and the next day we were straight into registering with local recruitment agencies.