Page 2 of TheMcNamaras Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Italy » Piedmont » Turin July 5th 2016

"What news from the cafes today?" Apparently when King Victor Emmanuel II of Turin wanted the latest political gossip, that is what he would ask his advisors. Turin is famous for its beautiful cafes and they form part of the cultural and political history of the city. While we didn't have much time, I was keen to experience some of that cafe culture for myself. I particularly loved the magnificent Caffè San Carlo, with its gilded mirrors, wonderful chandelier and fabulous waitstaff. I must say I walked in and wondered if I should be turning right around again, but a coffee here is the same price as it is anywhere else in Turin (and costs much less than it does at home), despite the decor being so opulent and the waiters so crisply attired! Apparently anyone ... read more
The most beautiful chandelier
Porticoes on Via Roma
Lunch together at Eataly

Europe » Italy » Piedmont » Orta San Giulio July 4th 2016

We have an old Alessi kettle with a train whistle which was one of the first house things we bought together about 25 years ago. The handle has been replaced once (I melted it), the whistles twice (once in New York and once at home) and I have managed to boil it dry on the stove several times, without ill effect. (You would think it would be impossible to boil it dry, because it sounds like a train is about to come down the hall when it boils!). Anyway, the town at the end of the lake, Omegna, is the home of Alessi. It's a largely industrial town, but there's a very pretty area close to where the ferry comes in. We had planned to catch the ferry, but as there is only one boat per ... read more
The cafe near the station. Two people - Primi, secondi, wine, coffee, 21 euros!
Villa Crespi
The quiet end of the lake

Europe » Italy » Piedmont » Orta San Giulio July 3rd 2016

The view out of the window this morning took my breath away. Bells from the convent in the middle of the lake woke me, and when I opened my eyes, the mysterious glistening silver of yesterday was gone. Today the lake was uncomplicated, brilliant blue and happy. I was disinclined to move from the bed with that view out the window, but the threat of missing breakfast got me going. It was worth the effort, too. Beautiful local meats and cheese, pastries and fresh apricots that tasted like they had just been picked from someone's tree. We love all the little extras here as well, like the plate of sweet treats in the hall in case you feel a bit peckish! They are all packaged so beautifully - I'm thinking I must buy some for gifts. ... read more
Sweet delights
The nuns sang the mass
Heading back to Orta

Europe » Italy » Piedmont » Orta San Giulio July 2nd 2016

French toast for the last breakfast with the Hornungs, Frank decided. We had a hilarious trip to the Albert Heijn supermarket with Dorine to shop for the ingredients we needed. It was amazing! You swipe your card and pick up a scanner as you enter the store and scan everything yourself as you put it in the trolley. I felt like I had shot forward in time about 50 years - very sci-fi. Anyway, it was a lovely last breakfast. French toast with apples, mascarpone and maple syrup and some bacon sliced finer than prosciutto which shrivelled up the minute it hit the pan (We got that one a bit wrong at the Albert Heijn deli department). Yum though. After breakfast it was time to say a sad good-bye to our friends once again. We've caught ... read more
The last breakfast
View of Madonna del Sasso
A little courtyard at the back of the building

Europe » Netherlands » South Holland » Delft July 1st 2016

The attraction of Delft, believe it or not, wasn't the the beautiful blue and white china. We had been a bit disappointed that Gitte's university exams happened to fall exactly at the time we were in The Netherlands, but in a sudden lightbulb moment I suggested we drive up and meet her for lunch after her last exam today. It was only a 90 minute drive so it all worked out perfectly. We were thrilled to see her and were able to hand over some Freddo Frogs that we'd carried all the way from home! Gitte was a great tour guide of her new city. I had been keen to try real Dutch pofterjes, and she had organised for us to go to a great pancake restaurant on the square in Delft where we were sure ... read more
Meeting up with Gitte, Delft.
The only tulips we saw in June!
Frank and Fred pub crawl on bikes

Europe » Netherlands » North Brabant » Den Bosch June 30th 2016

Dorine said it was impossible to eat a Bosschebol without a knife and fork. Frank, being Frank, took that on as a challenge. I declined to enter the competition, however he assures me they are delicious and that using your fingers is definitely an option, just not a particularly attractive one to watch! Bosschebollen are famous in Den Bosch and it can be tricky to know which bakery sells the best ones if you don't have a native with you. Luckily, we had two, and Dorine and Fred led us to the perfect place to sample one. A bossche bol is a pastry similar to an eclair, full of whipped cream and covered in chocolate. Frank highly recommends them. I think it's something you probably try once. Den Bosch is only about 20 minutes from Eindhoven ... read more
Jan Fabre beetle shells
Frank and Dorine Sint Jan Cathedral
Kibbeling for lunch

Europe » Belgium » West Flanders » Bruges June 29th 2016

Oh, by the way, in case you've ever considered doing this, the WORST thing you could ever say to someone who's just sat down in a dentist's chair is "Now you do know in The Netherlands they don't use anaesthesia when they drill, don't you?". Ha Ha Ha. Very funny - I thought. But Dorine was deadly serious. Then she saw my face and got the nervous giggles. As I prepared to kill her. Slowly. I forgot to mention yesterday that the reason I could actually eat the Flammkuchen at lunchtime was that dentists in The Netherlands don't use anaesthesia when they drill. So no numbness or drooling, but plenty of pain. The upside is that I am now free to eat my way around Europe without jumping out of my chair weirdly every time I ... read more
 Waiting for the Bruges boat tour
Fruit jellies, Bruges
The hotel from the  In Bruges movie!

Europe » Netherlands » North Brabant » Eindhoven June 28th 2016

Great minds think alike. In my research on Eindhoven I had flagged a visit to Piet Hein Eek, and one of Dorine's first suggestions after picking us up from the train in Eindhoven yesterday was that we eat there for lunch today. He is one of the pioneers of using reclaimed materials to build furniture and artwork and has been doing it since around 1990 when he graduated from design school. It's fitting that he has set up his studio and factory in one of the old Phillips buildings left vacant in Eindhoven since the company moved its headquarters to Amsterdam. The restaurant, shop and gallery are set up around the factory and offices and it's all terribly hip and cool but lovely and warm at the same time. Our lunch was fabulous - I ate ... read more
  Poster wall Piet Hein Eek
  Our first windmill in Holland
Our mate Vincent

Europe » Netherlands » North Holland » Amsterdam June 26th 2016

Cobblestones and suitcases made a lovely walk through Amsterdam in the early morning sun a little more awkward than it might otherwise have been! At 8am on Sunday morning the city was completely deserted as we made our way from Centraal Station, but we easily found our way to the lovely Hotel Estheréa and dropped our bags. To backtrack a little, the flight from Australia went well. We got some sleep and my newly broken tooth - more on that later - didn't bother me too much. Even our stop in Singapore was fun. We discovered a free foot and calf massage machine built for two and got the giggles while taking the plunge and putting our legs in. It must have looked so funny, not exactly one of the romantic wedding anniversary moments we imagined ... read more
The Nightwatchmen
Welcome to Holland!
Colourful barge

Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Tullamarine June 25th 2016

It is a weird feeling preparing to get on a plane without our children. This year, we have decided to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in style, by taking a long trip on our own. Luckily, Isabel is going off on the Belcanto choir tour to the USA and Canada with Firbank, and Hugo has had multiple invitations (including a week at Fall's Creek skiing!), so they don't feel too left out. Nevertheless, we do feel a bit lonely without them now it has come time to say good-bye. We dropped Hugo to Chris and Sarah's on our way to the airport, then waved Isabel and the Belcanto girls goodbye as they flew off to San Fransisco at about midday. Now we have finally made it through customs ourselves, so it's time to celebrate with a ... read more

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