With the mercury dropping by the second and a chilly winter ahead of us I am ready to embrace the warm and snuggly clothing of Autumn.
Recently Rachel and I headed up to Kew Gardens to revel in the Autumnal explosion of colour and shoot some of our autumn looks. Yes, I changed multiple times during the day in public and felt no shame!
Until last year the children didn’t have passports. In fact, we have been away from home so seldom that they actually thought a holiday was three nights max.
Emerging from the white hot years of starting our businesses we took Winter Solstice to discuss where our priorities lay for the coming year. Top of our list as a family was travel and togetherness. So after many hours of scouring flights, destinations and dates I found five return flights to Mallorca over Easter for a shade over £200.
We waited until the last day of our Solstice celebrations to break the news to them. Lighting up the darkest days with dreams of distant shores ended 2015 on a high.
Fast forward to March and the excitement was electrical. The children were telling everyone who would listen about our plans (and Monty was filling them in on the great flight prices – that boy loves to talk money!).
We took the advice of our friend Christian (whose Drive Majorca posts totally influenced our choices) and decided to stay in Port de Pollença. Port de Pollença is located on the North of the island in a sheltered bay. Our Airbnb apartment was a couple of minutes walk from the beach and boasted a private pool. Despite the pool being breathtakingly cold in March the children were not deterred. I’d idle on the lounger with my podcasts while they plunged about then warmed themselves like salamanders in the spring sunshine.
Mallorca is small enough to drive across in under an hour on the motorway making Palma an easy day trip from Port de Pollença. We decided to save Palma for a future trip and instead concentrated on trips around the North West of the island.
On the main roads the going is easy but head off into the mountains and you find winding routes which were filled with cyclists when we visited. Your best chance of getting through the mountains with as few cyclists as possible is to set out early in the day before they have made too much distance. That said, we didn’t find them to be a huge hinderance to our progress.
From Port de Pollença we took the road to Port de Sa Calobra which is a stunning journey across the mountains. Google estimated 45 minutes for us to drive it but a couple of hours was more realistic with cyclists and cliff-edge slow speeds. I loved seeing the countryside change as we ascended and crossed the mountains, driving hairpin bends and through narrow breaks in the cliffs.
At Port de Sa Calobra we headed to the shore and took a table for lunch in the cafe closest to the water’s edge. The children scrambled across rocks and ran in and out of the chilly water as we let the roar of the waves fill our heads.
Given the touristy nature of this spot and the self service buffet-style restaurants we passed on our way down I wasn’t expecting much from the little cafe we ate lunch at. I ordered the calamar a la plancha and was rewarded with one of the best meals of our trip. The squid was cooked to perfection with a hint of smoke and topped with the most delicious garlic and parsley. Absolutely perfect balance of flavours and sublime despite all expectations.
Port de Sa Calobra is a stunning spot to explore the rugged coast and turquoise sea of Mallorca. The weather was not on our side for swimming being one of those cold March days which demands a jumper alongside your sunglasses.
Our little bay Badia de Pollença was the perfect spot for paddling when the temperatures rose. The beach stretches around the bay and is relatively sheltered from the wind by the mountains to the North. It’s easy to see why this is recommended to families so highly as the beaches deliver clear lapping waves, all the sandcastles you could want and several docks to fish and jump from.
On the opposite side of the bay is Alcúdia, a stunning old town with extensive pedestrian-only streets. The town is steeped in history having been continuously occupied since the Bronze Age. Roman remains sit alongside the architecture so reminiscent of Mallorca in narrow streets filled with the sound of chatter, church bells and no cars – bliss.
On our first visit, we wandered the streets until the sun began to sink behind the ancient walls and took a table on Plaça de la Constitució at Sa Plaça. As we were visiting before the main tourist season kicked off the restaurants were all quiet; we watched local life unfold as we sipped our drinks and the children explored the streets around us.
As I cook Paella frequently at home the children were desperate to try their first Spanish experience – I know we’re far from Andalucia but who am I to disappoint? We were served a single large paella packed with crab, shellfish and delicious saffron rice. One of the things I love about being in Spain is how welcome children are, the waiters heaped attention on them and they responded with glee. When you dream of holidays with the children it’s moments like this which really make me want to travel more often – settled around a table eating delicious food and chatting about our plans.
As we were visiting over Easter the festivals were in full swing across the island. We didn’t make it out to any of them as they were a little late (and we’re not Christians) but caught glimpses of statues being prepared and costumes readied.
Since travelling Europe with an interrail ticket half a lifetime ago the lure of train journeys has always been strong for me. Mallorca may be small but it holds a couple of train journeys worth taking. We opted for the quaint journey from Palma to Soller, through the mountains on a vintage train. If you’re a fan of train journeys Michael Portillo did a nice programme on Barcelona to Mallorca in his Great Train Journeys series.
In an attempt to keep it economical I took the children on the train with a single fare and Mr Kat drove separately. Journey time was similar with Mr Kat waving us off in Palma and meeting us off the train in Soller. The train rolled gently through farmland and across the mountains with the breeze from the windows cooling our faces as we made our way over the mountains. We stopped for five minutes over Soller to take in the views and allow the train returning to Palmer to pass.
In Soller we hopped on the wooden tram to head to the port. The trams were packed and we stood on the back of the carriage like sardines alongside our fellow passengers. It’s a fun ride down to the port, passing through the packed square and along the backstreets. The old wooden tram has a certain charm but I think if we went again I’d bring the car down to the port as the fare is pricey and you rely on muscling your way on to a tram to return – we missed at least one due to overcrowding.
The port was buzzing with life, we had tapas on the dockside while the children peered into the harbour waters spotting the fish. As clouds melted from the sky and we played on the beach all afternoon stopping only to cross the road to an ice cream shop.
You could spend your entire trip to Mallorca nestled between the mountains and the sea. The apartment buildings over-looking the bay seem to come at a higher price to other locations based on my Airbnb research.
One thing I loved about being on Mallorca is that my school girl pidgin Spanish got me by. Everywhere we went I spoke broken Spanish and not only was understood but kept up with the conversation in return. I’m not sure I’ve ever been this successful in Andalucia but maybe as the language of Mallorca is Mallorquin more closely related to Catalan we were on more equal footing. Despite the reasons the children thought I was magical and we can only really claim that a few times as parents!
For us the mix of apartment, local beach and road trip worked really well. The children had downtime as we travelled and were able to stretch bedtime later than normal. Despite having good wifi and 4G we managed to leave our work until after they were in bed and sink into the moment.
I wanted to share the children’s first flight (which we nearly missed!) and our road trip with you so here are our highlights of road tripping Mallorca.
The clear air, rugged coast, old towns and perfect turquoise shore of Mallorca have won our hearts and we will definitely be returning to explore other parts of the island and to give Palma more than a passing glance. Have you been to Mallorca? I’d love to hear your favourite places to visit and eat.
We flew Easyjet booking directly in December during their birthday sale for March.
I booked accommodation through Airbnb (my go-to for places to stay, sign up using my link and get money off your first booking).
We hired our car from Hertz. Prices for car seat hire from Hertz are astronomical but Easyjet allow you to bring extra hold luggage for children at no extra charge so we brought boosters from home. Full marks to Hertz for providing mini white boards for the children to draw on as we drove and for having such lovely staff in Palma.
Here is my Mallorca Pinterest board with our trip inspirations:
The first time I went to Italy I didn’t eat pasta. In fact, I didn’t eat pasta until I was nearly twenty. When you’re allergic to tomatoes and exposed to little genuine Italian food it’s understandable if not a terrible waste.
I soon made up for lost time and exploring the rich culture of pasta has captivated me ever since. Last week I had the opportunity to slip away from daily life for a couple of days and visit Bologna.
I will be sharing a couple of posts about our trip. I’m excited to show you some of the photos I took of people in Bologna – I would recommend a trip for the street photography alone. But I couldn’t wait to share with you the cookery class I took and a recipe for ricotta and parmesan tortellini.
On Friday morning we headed out to the Culinary Institute of Bologna (CIBO) to learn how to make fresh stuffed pasta.
Chef Stefano welcomed us to the school situated in Caffe del Rosso on Via Augusto Righi. The culinary school kitchen is in the back of the restaurant and we got to grips with dough and fillings before the lunchtime customers filled the tables.
We were taught by Lucia who passed on the traditional tips which Italians would learn as children. You may have made pasta following a recipe in the past as have I but if you’re not in the perfect conditions your dough could be too dry or too wet.
Lucia taught us instead to start with a little flour well, two eggs and add flour as needed while mixing. This allows you to adjust for the atmosphere in your kitchen and create a dough for the kind of pasta you want to make (moist for stuffed pastas). In stead of taking our dough to the fridge to rest we let it sit on the board in clingfilm while we made our fillings.
Once our pasta dough was ready we learned how to hand roll to a consistent thickness in one large sheet. No roller machines in sight – this was rolled with a pin as Nonna would. Having made my fair share of pasta with a machine I can tell you that the rolling pin was easier.
The big revelation for me was how to seal tortellini. The moisture in the dough plays and important role in allowing you to seal it with your finger tips. To ensure the tortellini don’t burst, begin pressing the edges together at one corner forcing out any air bubbles.
Once sealed, fold the edges into the bulge of filling and bring the two corners around your finger to press them together.
This is the method I have been missing on so many lack-lustre attempts at tortellini. Check out my video below to see it in action.
Once our tortellini, ravioli and tagliatelle were finished they were whisked off to the kitchen to be cooked for our lunch. There is nothing more satisfying than eating your very own creations in a bustling restaurant in Italy.
Ricotta and Parmesan Tortellini in Sage Butter
200g (ish) type 00 flour
An equal volume of freshly grated parmesan to the ricotta
To make the pasta dough:
Create a pile of flour on your board using about half of your flour, make a well in the centre.
Crack your eggs into the flour well and using a fork begin to beat them incorporating the flour without braking the well.
As your dough comes together add more flour until you have a slightly sticky dough.
Work the dough on your board using the heel of your hand to push it away from you and your fingers to fold it over (see video above).
Once you are happy with it, wrap it in clingfilm and set it to one side to rest. MAke the filling at this point. Keep an eye on it until it is rested and ready to roll.
Roll the flour on your board applying pressure evenly to the middle of the pin, turning the dough 45 degrees between rolls to ensure it is rolled to an even thickness.
As it gets bigger roll it onto your pin to turn the pasta sheet.
You are looking for a sheet which is slightly translucent for tortellini.
To make the filling:
Make this while the pasta is resting – you don’t want to let your rolled pasta dry later on in the process.
In a large bowl grate an equal volume of parmesan to your ricotta.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the parmesan into the ricotta.
Grate in some nutmeg, mix and taste. At this point you want the salt of the parmesan to come through. Add parmesan and nutmeg as required.
Once you’re happy with the flavours spoon the mixture into a piping bag.
Finishing your pasta:
Cut your pasta sheet into even squares using a knife.
Pipe a blob of filling into the centre of each square.
Taker your pasta, fold it gently into a triangle and then seal starting at one corner and working your way across making sure you don’t have any trapped air.
Fold the edges in and bring the two sides around your finger to press the tortellini into a navel.
Cook in boiling water until the pasta rises to the top.
Drain reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid.
Sizzle a big knob of butter in a flat pan, throw in some sage leaves an add the pasta.
Toss the pasta in the butter adding the cooking liquor to loosen it up.
Serve with lashings of freshly grated parmesan and a big smile!
What you need to know:
We were guests of Hotel Touring, situated in a quiet side street it is the perfect base for exploring the city. Quote NKinBologna for a 15% discount.
Our cookery class was courtesy of The Culinary Institute of Bologna. You can take a range of classes at CIBO including the introduction to fresh pasta we experienced.
Flight time to Bologna is around 2 hours from the South East of England. I booked flights with Ryan Air from Stanstead and returned to Heathrow with British Airways. My advice is to look at the full costs of flying from Stanstead. For me, the additional travel and hotel the night before more than wiped out the savings of the cheap flight.
Last weekend a group of my blog friends and I went to Oxford to spend the day chatting, browsing, wandering and photographing.
When it comes to eye-candy Oxford has it in old fashioned spades. We probably only covered a small distance because when you stop every five yards to take a photo progress is slow.
We spent quite a bit of time investigating the shops in and around the Covered Market with a couple of real gems tempting me into spending. I definitely feel more trips on the horizon to explore the indie shops further out from the centre.
We managed to pick the date of Folk Weekend Oxford for our visit and the town was awash with morris dancers. I have to apologise to my friend Karen for dragging her into the centre of the dancers despite knowing she has a childhood fear of them. But I couldn’t resist – they are so fantastic to photograph I could have followed them all day.
Karen snuck us into her daughter’s college, Balliol, for a peek into the oldest college in the English speaking world. Being over 75o years old the college boasts some incredible architecture. While Harry Potter wasn’t filmed here, (Christ Church, New College and the Bodleian are the places to head) it certainly had the Hogwarts air of grandeur.
I failed to get a picture of the dining hall without people and despite great temptation to peek we didn’t open the doors to the Master’s room. The woodwork of the tables and benches is deliciously worn and the top table is splattered with wax from spent candles.
I came to a study camp in Oxford when I was a teenager and stepping inside the colleges did give me a minor pang of regret that I didn’t push myself to get to one of the big universities. Obviously I gave the children a nudge that this is a good place to study.
April is a lovely time to bimble around with friends. It was a day of great weather, interesting conversation and plenty to look at. Karen organised such a perfect day out for Lottie, Heather and I and we were lucky enough to be joined by Natasha after a chat on twitter – yay internets!