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Favourite Food


Travel quotes


My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people. - Orson Welles, author


Travel empties out everything into the box you’ve called your life, all the things you accumulate to tell you who you are.― Claire Fontaine



National days.....


Minorca, Spain 17  January (Alfonso III of Aragon took the island from Muslims, 1287)

On the Minorcan table....

Trivia: Mayonnaise is said to have been first created in Mahon (Maó).
The French took mayonnaise with them back to France in the 1700s, and from there its distribution has expanded globally. The sauce started as ‘Salsa Mahonesa’ in Minorca’s capital Mahon. More….



Bosnia and Herzegovina 9 January Serbian Republic Day celebrate in Republika Srpska

Dining here....

Trivia: With an area of 1,400 hectares, the Perućica forest has many trees that are 300 years old, and the forest's vintage is stated to be 20,000 years. In some places the forest growth is almost impregnable.



Northern Mariana Islands, United States 8 January  (Commonwealth Day, the constitutional government takes office 1978)

What is on the menu here?

Trivia: Archeological evidence reveals that rice has been cultivated in the Marianas since prehistoric times.



Italy, January 1 (1948)

Dining in Italy....

Trivia: Italians suffer more earthquakes than any other Europeans. In 1693, an estimated 100,000 people died in an earthquake in Sicily. The most deadly recent quake in Italy occurred in Naples in 1980, killing 3,000 people. More....



Cuba 1 January (Liberation Day, Fidel Castro takes power in 1959 (and Spanish rule ends 1899))

The food of Cuba....

Trivia: There are no animals or plants in Cuba that are poisonous or lethal to humans. More....



Haiti 1 January (Declaration of independence from France 1804)

On the Haitian table...

Trivia: The gourd plant has always been important to Haiti. The Haitian currency is called “gourdes”, and dates back to 1807 when President Christophe made gourds the base of the national currency. More…..



Sudan 1 January (Independence Day, from the United Kingdom and the Egyptian Republic 1956)

The food of The Sudan...

Trivia: The capital of Sudan, Khartoum, means elephant trunk in Arabic, which refers to the large bend in the Nile River that it makes as it flows north from the city. More…



Food related events....

US food festivals in JANUARY 2018


Food festivals WORLDWIDE in JANUARY.


Food related events on this date in history!



Food history


...visit The Old Foodie.


See where we have been...

24 percent of the world's countries!





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Packing tips

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Will you need an umbrella?


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Or where you are right now?

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Check the TIME

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See them all here...


Check out the current exchange rate..... 


Airport codes

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Check this site....


Drivers! You need to know this about drinking and driving overseas.

Learn more...



How to get urgent assistance  when you need it!

World emergency numbers....



Have you had your travel shots?

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Here's how....




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A Swiss first! A climate-neutral ship.

Meet this eco-friendly way to cruise.... 




.............and Apps and DVDs


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Enjoy these recipes.



Raw and random, this is probably not the France you know.

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Find out more here.....


Cooks and travellers!

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Good carbs, bad carbs is there a difference?

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Everyone loves secrets - especially about favourite places.


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One of the most unusual books you will read - a memoir of sorts. The journey is through life and discovering its answers - or even more questions.

Read more....



Take a food trail every weekend of the year - that's the offer from Lonely Planet...

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Now you can cook meals like a cafe-chef pro. All day every day!




Lucio does it again with co-author David Dale as this time they explore the coast of three countries.

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For those keen to know about the food of the Adriatic Coast, this is the ideal book.

See more here.....



Reprinted 2017

Don't think you know enough French to travel in France?

This book might give you confidence......



Start planning for Tokyo 2020 Olympics or go earlier.

This guide is what you need....



Did you think salads were only for summer?

Think again!....



Always wanted to visit Turkey? You've been, and loved the food?

This book is for you....



One of Australia's top chefs, shares good and tasty dishes for home cooks.

Read more here...



It's that 'sweet spot' of the year when some sugary treats are even more welcome.

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Trivia buffs - this book is for you.

Especially if you love to travel...


Just in time for the holiday season.

Check your favourite wineries....



Three cities full of secrets.


Learn where they are.....



Take a trip to stylish Amsterdam!

It will be worth the trip....



The world's BIGGEST bread cookbook.

See for yourself...



A true story of survival of a family and the cuisine of their homeland.

A must-read....


If you love a bit of mystery and wackiness with your travel, this book is for you.

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There is much more to Rio de Janeiro than meets the eye.

Discover its secrets....



Do you need some travel ideas? Here are 1001 historic sites to visit.

Start planning now...



Ah, Chocolate! Here presented by 'the queen of chocolate'!

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If you always thought cooking Indian was too difficult....

... think again and see how easy it can be.



Find out what Edinburgh has been hiding.

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Need somewhere to rest during a busy day in London?

Here are about a hundred ideas....



Do you love Paris? Would you like to really know your way around?

This book will show you how...



Favourite cookery book writer Anneke Manning, opens her BakeClub files.

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What's for dinner? Now you kn ow with the help of this expert.

Nadia's book has the answers....



Is there such a thing as a quiet spot in Los Angeles?

This book shares 120 of them....



Sydney has many precincts and now you may explore them.

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Have you been to Berlin? This book will make you want to visit.

Read more....



Something for every day of the year from famous writers and speakers through the ages.

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Now you can cook all your favourite foods from Japan's capital.

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Spend some time with Australia's 'Queen of Nyona'.

Learn her history and Asian cooking secrets....



Looking for a way to spend your weekends in Australia in 2016? 

Here are 52 suggestions complete with things to do and places to eat....






Window on Bulgaria

The country where people never smile 

~ and other myths ~

Neighbours! It seems the whole world has problems with them. Or, more correctly, what they think they know about each other. 

In Denmark the advice was 'watch out for the Swedes!' In Romania, a cloud came over faces when we mentioned we would soon be entering Bulgaria. 

'What? WHAT?' we asked one person who looked especially glum at our news. 'What should we be careful of?' His reply was not encouraging. 'Just don't get out of your car,' he said, then turned away.

A Durtch couple, touring Romania, shrugged, saying 'Bulgarians never smile', claiming they'd seen not a glimmer on a recent trip.

Oh dear! our accommodation was booked, and by then past the free cancellation deadline. It was now Gordon's and my turn to shrug, and say to each other (with a wry grin, of course) 'Let's just go on a smile offensive and see for ourselves'.

So, we crossed the border from Romania, grinning. We reckoned that when you wave, people usually wave back to you, so why not smiles? And, of course, the same thing happened here. Smile #1 was from the border official, a capable-looking lady in a uniform who was checking our car and papers.

Bulgaria is a country with a long history of various occupying nations. Thracians, Persians, Greeks and Romans were the earliest. There were two empires, then Ottoman rule, communism and finally autonomy as a democratic nation. Many generations saw wars and conflict, positioned as the country is, at the crosswires of tension between neighbouring competing lands and cultures.

Despite this, there is a deep foundation of Christianity. This rock-hewn church with ancient painted murals at its entrance, is near the village of Ivanovo, a few kilometres south the Romanian border. It is just one of many UNESCO World Heritage Listed churches overlooking the winding Rusenski Lom river, the last major right-hand tributary of the Danube. Luckily the main highway we were taking from the border towards the Black Sea was close enough for us to make a detour to visit this church.

Iconography - lavishly gilded and exquisitely painted pictures and objects – is a feature of most churches in this part of Europe, a relic from the times when the written word of Scriptures was not available to all people. They are deeply revered and many times we waited respectfully while a local person wept or knelt and prayed in front of one of them.

As I bought some souvenirs at the small kiosk in the entrance courtyard, you guessed it, the man in clerical garb who served me, flashed a friendly smile.

A little further south we glimpsed this fascinating edifice in the distance. It is the only one of its kind in the world: a memorial commemorating an entire country. The Bulgarian State Memorial is a jaw-dropping monument, created in a Cubist-meets-Brutalist-style of architecture, and opened on completion in 1981. 

And it's commemorating what, exactly?

This is an extraordinary celebration of Bulgaria's equally impressive thirteen hundred years since the founding and continuation of the Bulgarian State. In this part of the world that certainly is something to be proud of, and this patriotic concrete block and reinforced steel monolith stands out like a rocky outcrop on the horizon above Shumen. The symbol of Bulgaria, a granite lion, lounging protectively at the front, alone weighs 1000 tons.


It helps if you are a cheese-lover in Eastern Europe. Bulgarian cuisine is varied and considered one of the best in the Balkans. Because of the size of the country, there are several subclimates and regions which can grow a wide variety of grains, fruits and vegetables, and raise stock and dairy animals such as cows, sheep and goats.

These last three provide milk to make a wide variety of dairy products ranging from yoghurts and similar products such as quark and katak, plus scarcely thicker cream cheeses, to fetta-like sirene, and kashkaval, a hard matured yellow cheese.

Breakfasts are not all that dissimilar to western ones although, after already a couple of weeks in this part of Europe, we did begin to pass up on omelette options. And it helps if you like jam with your cheese (I do), and if you prefer your cheese to be soft and white, albeit quite salty. And do go for the pancakes, done very well in all this part of Europe and the Balkans.

Despite our trusty GPS, it was a little tricky finding our first night's lodging overlooking the Black Sea (which, after a stormy day, that evening resembled a 'bleak' sea) at Hotel Briz in Sarafovo, a suburb of  Burgas.

The next day we located the hotel's sign across the road. Written in Cyrillic script, of course it looked nothing like Hotel Briz to us.

Have fun, if you like, using the script, to decode other signs you may see in some of the pictures in this feature. Interestingly, once the words are in the more familiar Latin letters, many make more sense.

Hospitality-plus. That's what we discovered about this country. Forget that ridiculous 'don't get out of the car' advice. We wandered streets as we wished, returned friendly smiles from locals (and quickly lost count of the 'score card' we had begun with). We recklessly overused our only two local words: Dobro utro (good morning) and blagodarya ti (thank you) and felt completely welcome.

That's what we love about travel. Good old Mark Twain said it perfectly: 'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness'.

Christina and Rusci, the couple who managed this boutique hotel, with its sweeping rooftop view, went above and beyond, by inviting us to join them for a rakia tasting one evening. Rakia is the blistering grape-based local spirit, often made in home stills, and regarded as the national drink. Our host was very proud of his version, as well he should have been. It was golden and smooth and very potent. We sipped it carefully, with many nods of appreciation.

Fortunately his wife accompanied it with a green salad, home-grown tomatoes, an excellent salami, fragrant with caraway seeds, which she had made and cured herself - and this. A warm from the oven banitsa made with filo pastry, eggs and cheese. A few days later I tried a slice in a pastry shop and, as you would expect, it was not a patch on Christina's one.

World-over, good home cooking is the best.


High on the cliff above you can see our hotel from the marina on the Sarafovo waterfront. It was in a garden room at the back of the building, where we sat and ate and drank and became friends with the hotel's managers that balmy autumn evening.

There was just one problem. We lacked a common language. None of us could speak a word of the other's tongue, so we communicated by sign language and iPad - tapping in our questions or replies, then using Google-translate. We could only hope it was providing a proper translation but mostly there were nods and - yes, more smiles - to show they understood us. 

Read on for a funny sequel to this.

They made us feel so very welcome in their spotless hotel, which had one of the lowest tariffs all trip, and there were tears (not smiles this time) when we parted.


The Black Sea

First of all a need-to-know. This major sea is not black, although on our first day, it was a rather uncharming grey. There are mixed theories about how the large inland body of water got its name. The ancient Greeks dubbed it the 'inhospitable sea' and the six countries (Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey) whose shores it washes, have various names for it.

Sunny Beach (seen across the bay) to the north is packed with hotels and resorts and very popular with tourists from Romania and Russia. 

Day one we head half an hour north to Nesebar (or Nessebar) a World Heritage City, and immediately witness the vast difference in this area from other cities we had visited so far. The Black Sea itself is lined with large hotels, apartment blocks, cafes and tourist-alia. It is Eastern Europe's Gold Coast, Riviera, Copacabana Beach or whatever else, and equates with tourist coastal hot spots around the world.

However there are still pockets of antiquity such as the medieval 13th-century Eastern Orthodox church of Pantocrator (above).

And, it seems cats are the same in every country!

In a nearby street, there was quite a cat theme going on too, with plenty of souvenirs.....

...and of course many churches had religious magnets and patches and tiny icons for sale at the door.

The old town attracts many visitors for its antiquity and ruins, some dating back to the Bronze Age. At the entrance is an archeological museum. In places the fortifications are still visible, today merely eye-catching and photo-worthy, but in centuries past, vital for the town's security and survival. 

On the causeway which links the old town to the new part, an ancient windmill stands guard. When its sails were attached, it would have been in a perfect location to catch the wind and turn the grain-grinding mills inside.

Back to the waterfront, and it is apparent that not everyone is a tourist. Many residents own boats for their work, fishing throughout the night to bring fresh seafood to the tables of seaside towns along the coast.



Smaller than Nesebar, there is a good feel to Sozopol, about thirty minutes drive south of Burgas, with much new development on the outskirts. And, yes, even though this is an inland sea, there are beaches with clean golden sands. 

There are several churches and cafes along the winding cobbled streets and lanes in Sozopol...

...with of course the tourist attractions of art and fashion, souvenirs, pastries and ice creams.

There is a relaxed feel to the town centre and this is obviously where the locals come to chat and review the day in the late afternoons.

The largest church in Sozopol is the Church of St George, dedicated to the third-century soldier who became traditionally as famous for having slain a dragon as his subsequent martyrdom. He is one of the most honoured saints for Christians, and as Bulgarians are mostly of the Orthodox faith, they have great reverence for him. Saint George Day is an important public holiday on May 6th in Bulgaria.




Plovdiv - students, art, architecture - and culture

Little more than halfway between the Black Sea and Sofia, the capital, we left the highway for the country's second-largest city, Plovdiv (pron. PLAW-div) with a population of around 350,000. It is called the City of the Seven Hills and, like Rome in a similar location, it is known for its culture. This is not a new development.

Plovdiv has an ancient Roman stadium and the Theatre of Philippopolis, once seating around 6000, now hosting opera and concerts. There are many statues and historical reminders throughout the city.

The city has six universities, with many students concentrating on the arts, so the city centre streets have mini exhibitions, with paintings of all sorts framed...

...and unframed. All are welcome for public exhibition.

With a young and vibrant population, there is a wide range of western-style cafes...

...and relaxing open areas, especially in the old centre, called simply The Town.

The architecture too is contemporary and stylish, even though much of the older buildings have  also been preserved. There is an archaeological museum and many protected sites.

With this in mind it is no surprise that Plovdiv has been chosen as a 2019 European Capital of Culture.

Plovdiv will join Matera in Italy with this prestigious event. Read more about the award....

Any time from now, right through 2019 and beyond, is sure to be an excellent time to visit Bulgaria, and especially Plovdiv.



Sofia - good taste and good tastes!

It had taken us a while, but finally we arrived in Sofia, a city of 1.7 million. The city spreads across a wide valley flanked on three sides by snowcapped mountains. It has been inhabited for over nine thousand years, and while quite damaged during World War II, much was rebuilt, then changed again during the Communist regime.  

Today's Sofia has a wide range of building styles, from ancient to baroque and renaissance architecture as well as some remaining brutalist buildings from the communist period. Above is the Russian Church built in the Russian revival style, an ornate mix of arches and tiling and gilded minarets.

A city of churches and cafes.........

......statues and street art, even on first glance, we knew we were going to enjoy Sofia.


Normally we would spend more time following the trail of ancient and beautiful buildings in a city, but I had read about the Balkan Bites Food Tour, and could not resist it. Even more interesting, it was free!

All we had to do, we were told, was to meet at 2pm on any day in Park Crystal, at the statue of Stefan Stambolov one of the founders of modern Bulgaria. Martina was our guide, and there were a couple of other groups, proving the popularity of this concept. The guides, we learned, are volunteers, and while there is no charge, a donation at the conclusion of the tour is appreciated. 

We were told we would visit five places and learn about each one, then taste something. That's just the sort of way we like to spend a couple of hours in a new city!

First up was Lavanda, a courtyard restaurant that makes its own bread and is passionate about the use of Bulgarian yoghurt. Evidently the bacteria in Bulgarian yoghurt is the reason for the longevity of many local people. In fact lactobacillus bulgaricus has been patented.


From health food to fast food. A quick walk for a couple of blocks brought us to this recently-opened place. Founded by a group of students from a town near the capital, it specialises in the student world's favourite food - burgers.

This diner was so intrigued by her Classical Burger of beef, bacon, cheese, onion, lettuce and peppers, accompanied by a local beer, that she did not see me photographing her.


Graffiti has long been a means of protest in many countries, and Sofia is no different. This tour was not all about food, and our guide asked us to pause while she told us about this one. Evidently the Dutch Embassy 'adopted' this wall so the picture could be painted along with a poem from a national poet. In fact every embassy has wall to wall poetry, inviting readers to think of unity and diversity, she told us.


As we crossed the square in front of the Black Mosque we were told the story of how once, in a storm, the minaret fell down. During communist times it became a prison, then reverted to a church after the end of their occupation.

She also told us how, until about 14 years ago a white-bearded man would beg daily outside this church. Unexpectedly, when he died, it was discovered that he'd left his life-savings, twenty thousand euros, to Sofia's Alexander Nevsky church. Learn more about his fascinating story here...

This is the recipient of the old man's life's savings. The lovely Alexander Nevski Cathedral is the star in the crown of Sofia. Completed in 1882, it can hold 10,000 people at a time. The gold-plated dome is 45 metres high.

Inside, it is decorated with Italian marble in various colours, Brazilian onyx, alabaster, and gold.


As beautiful as it is by day, the cathedral is perhaps even more serene and glorious in the early evening when the crowds and tour buses have left.


Martina had so many stories. We pass an open air fruit market and she tells us how, during the communist era, people from Sweden craved the lush and sweet Bulgarian tomatoes. They were so keen, in fact, that there were offers of trading tomatoes for Abba records!

Interestingly, the communists were responsible for bringing bananas to Bulgaria, she told us.


Next, down a laneway, a small kitchen over a shoemaker's shop delivers us these featherlight morsels - something like a doughnut filled with jam and honey. Utterly delicious and consumed far too quickly. 


Food for the senses, as we pass on to our final restaurant. Bulgaria's climate is ideal for flowers.


And food for the mind too. This is an open-air bookshop that is closed up and put away each evening, although it appears it may not operate for much longer.

Beside it is a statue to father and son, the elder one, Petko Slaveykov, is Bulgaria's first cookbook author, and his son was also a writer. The square has been named in their honour.


Finally at the wine restaurant we sample three appetisers along with the locally brewed tipple.

You can see the long boards on which each appetiser arrived - each featuring a version of local sheep or goat cheese or yoghurt, starting with the mildest and progressing to the strongest. Those tiny earthenware pots hold tastes of the drink to go with each. This restaurant began in the 18th century by a wealthy local man, a lover of traditional food and wine, as a way to preserve the old recipes and methods of wine making.

We finish our tasting with a taste of a dessert wine that contains 25 different herbs and fruits - as well as wormwood.

We add a new Bulgarian word to our limited vocabulary: Nazdrave!

Balkan Bites also run a New Sofia pub crawl, a Graffiti tour, and the Communist Trabant tour.


After this amazing tour, we are out in the mall area, with that lovely view beyond. 

Martina had also told us about how eighty percent of the world's rose oil is made from Bulgarian roses. It is exported to be used in cosmetic, perfumes and liquor and there are many shops throughout the city where samples can be bought.  


After a busy day we pass by the National Theatre and fountain in Ivan Vasov Garden. This is where I took the picture of the busking accordionist at the top of this page.

Sofia's charm is in so many things. It is a mature and confident city now, relaxing with its grand buildings and open spaces. Despite a sometimes turbulent history, it is now a mature and confident city, relaxing with its grand buildings and open spaces. Considering its recent political history, and the fact it keeps largely under the world's radar as far as promoting itself, we found it a surprisingly modern and urbane city.


Certainly I found myself on our return home, when people asked 'which city did you like best?', answering without consideration, replying in the words above.


Before leaving the city the next day, there were just a couple of things to tick off our to-do list.

One was a visit to one of the city's community mineral springs, open to anyone who wishes to drink or fill a bottle with water, that have been bubbling up here for centuries.

While Sofia is comfortable with its place in the modern world, there is still much to discover about this very ancient city, and here a group is exploring one part of an excavation in the city centre.


So much to see and do, we nearly missed this. This is the changing of the guard outside the President's Palace.

This man was taking it all seriously, but we felt for him as it as such a warm day and his uniform looked very hot and heavy.


After all is said and done, no matter how beautiful the buildings, how stunning the scenery, how exciting the events and activities, the test of any country is in its people.

We left Bulgaria as we had arrived - with care, welcome and smiles. We stopped just before the Serbian border to have lunch and use the last of our Bulgarian currency (the lev). The only place was a service station with a small spotlessly clean cafe. By pointing at the menu and hand signs we were able to make the attendant understand that an am and cheese sandwich would be fine.

I think we ordered 'off-menu' but she hurried around, bringing some ingredients to show us to be sure she had understood us correctly and delivered this  to us as quickly as she could.

It might look ordinary, but it tasted wonderful, and we could sense it had been made with care and love.

It was these small courtesies and generous actions that gave us some insight into the people of this country.

That is why I now say this:


I promised a funny story about Google Translate but it is really one that is more about my 'travel-brain'.

Shortly after we left Bulgaria, I sent these pictures to our new-found friends in Hotel Briz. I thanked them and said what lovely people they were. I used Google Translate and sent it off. Later I thought I would translate it back into English to make sure it had worked, and was horrified to see that instead of   'lovely people' it had translated them to 'stupid bystanders'!

I was mortified and, as I did not hear back from them, I blamed myself.

Much, much later I found the email, checked it again and (oh dear!) I had sent it to them in SERBIAN, not Bulgarian, hence the mistakes. Let's hope they see this and forgive me. (I did say that we were passing through many countries with a number of languages.......)


Words and photos: ©Sally Hammond

Video: ©Gordon Hammond

Sally and Gordon Hammond travelled independently for eight weeks throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans in mid-2017, visiting 13 countries, trying to converse in 10 languages (none of them English) and juggling many currencies. A wonderful trip of smiles, tearful farewells, strange foods and stunning scenery.



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Find him in Tasmania....



Add some craic to your Christmas!

To be sure, you'll love it....



Take a walk in Japan and feel refreshed.

See more...



A year of fabulous food festivals in 2017 for Britain!

Find out when and where....



Festivals throughout Australia too in 2017.

Check these out...



Scotland's Year of events for 2018

...what's on?

...and more!


Festivals in Korea, 2017

Here they are....



2017 Malaysia's Year of Festivals....

Find out when and where...


What's happening in Rome this month....

Check it out here...



Ever dreamed of having your own place in France.

This may make it easier....


Now you can travel and pick up some artistic skills - and enjoy Italian cuisine.

...find out where



Looking for a way to spend your weekends in Australia this year? 

Here are 52 suggestions complete with things to do and places to eat....

Read more..





Sally, and Gordon Hammond also operate the Australian Regional Food Guide Web site. This comprehensive directory is a great resource for everything that is happening in the regional food scene in Australia. Make sure you visit and bookmark this site. Please Follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook.