Tuesday, April 26, 2011

You ate what in where now???

Any country would be a lot better off with a parliament building made of chocolate.

Here in Australia, it's pretty much a rite of passage for most kids to make a big trip after years of studying are finally over. For me like many, Europe was the dream destination.

Now this was my first ever trip overseas, and no matter how much you read about it, nothing can prepare you for the culture shock of a new country. Be it more or less of a shock than what you expect, the only way to find out is to get there. 

 Image taken from tripadvisor's facebook app. 
NOTE: This trip happened years ago, well before this food blog began. But looking back at my holiday happy snaps I was still taking shots of food even back then. However this post is only borderline food related. It's more a wins and fails list of things both edible and cultural that I maybe could have done differently. Hopefully other new travelers can learn from my mistakes.

OK I think I should start with a bit of background. My traveling buddy was an old school and uni friend also out on his first trip overseas. He's your old school, Aussie born and bred, mans man that was raised on meat and three veg and was adamant all other foods were disgusting. This is a bloke who when a bunch of us went to a local Chinese restaurant for lunch one time, sat outside by himself and ate a loaf of white bread instead of trying something new. Though I like to blame him for my dietary mistakes during the trip, I guess my cultural ignorances were also partly to blame.

So here it is. My wins and fails list for Europe. 


WIN: Kegs of Stella Artois in a Scottish supermarket.
WIN: Facial expression watching of people eating Haggis for the first time
(FAIL: Not bringing home a can of haggis to gross everyone out with)
FAIL: Falling for marketing ploy and buying a 'Yorkie - It's not for girls!' chocolate bar
(It was just cheap milk chocolate)
WIN: Finding a bar that has Karaoke and 1.80 pound free-poured doubles. Look at that evil bar tender.  

WIN: Riding the Lochness Monster
WIN: Finding a variety store called 'Thistle Do Nicely'
WIN: Drinking the best tasting water right out of any flowing stream
FAIL: Getting uncomfortably close to a 'hairy coo' and having to run for the fence. 

FAIL: Eating American style pizza in Amsterdam
WIN: Finding a Heineken the size of a large man.
FAIL: Following a tourist map for hours trying to find 'Eat at Jo's' which was closed
FAIL: Yes it was small. No it wasn't a gallery. Just a souvenir shop.

DOUBLE WIN: Best hot chocolate ever plus the Reichstag building, made out of chocolate!
WIN: An entire souvenir shop dedicated to the funky pedestrian lights
WIN: The Brandenberg Gate at night
DOUBLE WIN: Christmas night markets with lovely ladies and After Eight mint liquer hot chocolate
DECUPLE WIN: Ordering a METER of beer! 

WIN: Garlic pesto escargot
FAIL: Blending in with the locals. Carrying a baguette around in your backpack does not make you look any more French.
WIN: Steak Tartare with raw egg
FAIL: Watch out for Nigerians who ask you to hold out your hand.
WIN: Cheese, wine and baguette dinner for 4euros.

Ok so the ol' hold out your hand trick. If you're like me and are usually seen looking up at impressive touristy monuments with mouth agape this will most likely happen to you. Some asking you to help them out by holding out your hand. They will make small talk and starting twisting a couple of strings together and before you know it they have tied a friendship bracelet to your wrist. Now they usually ask for a lot of money for this little service which is now locked to your hand, but for 'Kangaroo' it's a mates rate of 9 euros. Bugger that and talk them down to 2. Also keep the thing on and use it as a free pass to all the other tourist attractions. My mate cut his off straight away and was approached again at the next tourist stop. hehe.

WIN: Wandering the narrow streets finding Roman water features everywhere you go. 
WIN: One liter of beer in a can!
FAIL: Traveling half way across the world to take a photo of a poster of Michelangelo's Last Judgement 
(Don't worry I did actually see it too).
FAIL: Attempting an artistic shot, but getting too much crotch.

WIN: Buying a copy of Dan Browns Angels and Demons and spending a day finding all the references.
FAIL: Looking like a complete tourist in doing so and nearly getting robbed by gypsies.

So there's a pickpocket thing going on in Rome you should be aware of. An old lady will come up to you and stick a piece of cardboard in your face. I'm guessing it says something like 'I'm poor please give'. Meanwhile a couple of kids with her will start pleading in Italian and grabbing your jacket. It's all a ploy to distract you as the kids reach in and steal whatever is in your pockets. 
Luckily for me growing up in an Aussie climate and being a complete baby when it comes to any temperatures below 15C, I was triple layered and they didn't get deep enough to the pocket with my passport in it. Also the very night before (I kid you not!) I was in a bar with a fellow traveler and they were telling me of the exact same thing that nearly happened to me. So as soon as I felt them tugging away at my outer pocket I yelled "back off!" and took a step back. As soon as they were made, they blended off into the crowd. Guy walked past and said "attenzione" but no one else tried to warn me of what was going on. Moral of the story, use your fellow travelers. They are a limitless source of information and stories and some of it may just come in handy!
WIN: A store named Andrea 2000
WIN/FAIL: Amazing window shopping for chocolates. Fail is it was just coloured white chocolate, not even flavoured.
FAIL: Steins in Venice. wtf.
WIN: pizza and more pizza, actually Italian style this time.
FAIL: The cheese plate was five slices of the one type of cheese.
WIN: watching the glass blowing on the island of Murano

FAIL: Cheese fries and chicken wraps
WIN: Freaky blue Pepsi
FAIL: Kenny Rogers Roasters. Traditional food of Singapore I'm sure.
WIN: Kenny Rogers cornbread

Yeah I know, I pretty much gave up by the time I got to Singapore, but it had been a month of traveling and it was good to see some western junk food again. This in no way represents the food culture of Singapore. Check out the chicken rice if you ever go there, and around Christmas time, check out the night food markets and line up at the store that has a line for two blocks and has only one thing on the menu. It'll be well worth the wait! But also go to Kenny Rogers for the cornbread, I have not had the like anywhere around Sydney.

So there you have it. A life changing experience which I can't recommend enough to anyone considering it. Oh and remember that Steak tartare and raw egg in Paris? Not my dish, but my mates! Yes the man who wasn't willing to give dim sums and spring rolls a go, was eating raw meat and loving it. He even liked the snails! Truly a man of the world now, I like to think I had something to do with extending his culinary appetite to a global scale.

If anyone has some funny travel stories I'd love to hear them. Also any recommendations for must try dishes in certain countries would be great. The best part about back packing is meeting all the people with similar interests and hearing their stories and experiences. Word of mouth is the best way to get off the beaten track and see/eat things you would never have found in a travel book. 

Karen contacted us here at Yayas about a Wiki project, MyCityCuisine.org a great site for doing some culinary research before your next trip. Would have been fantastic to have had something like this for my trip so I could have made up a eating check list. Being a Wiki project, it's looking for contributors to expand their listing of local cuisines. So if you've got a local favourite dish or found a must try food during your travels, share the knowledge. I'm already looking forward to trying it!


  1. BAHAHAHA fav pic is the backpack with the baguette sticking out!

  2. Is that a baguette in your backpack..or are you just pleased to see me? he he he.

  3. Great pics, and what a great memory you have (I have trouble remembering what I had last week, let alone years ago). And love the pic of the baguette, like you're trying to blend in.

  4. Finally we get to see the infamous cheese plate for which we've been forced to make up for in every restaurant that's offered a cheese platter since, hehe!

  5. Aww travel memories. I agree that backpacking is one of the best ways to see Europe. And trying to get the most out of your Eurail Pass is half the fun! I have so many great food memories, but one of my favourites is eating freshly made Turkish bread in a nondescript family run kebab shop in Istanbul and then discovering the biggest, fluffiest hazelnut macaroons (yes macaroons) in a tiny bakery around the corner.

  6. Hehe that is a really cute and funny post. So many countries, so many food possibilities and experiences! :D

  7. Travel memories, so so very precious. Love the baguette picture. My favourite travel memory was when I was 16, Egypt, and the food was amazing. Have had many adventures since, but that was an incredible experience.

  8. I miss Europe! It's so easy to travel there, so much to see and experience. Great photos!

  9. Great travel memories and experience you had. Love to read your experience. The captures are also adorable one...!!! Follow your blog in the future for more travel and food info.