Older couple making spring rolls

Taipei’s Shilin night markets

On our recent trip to Japan, we stopped over in Taipei for a night of feasting at the famous Shilin night markets. The markets first opened in 1899 and has a huge variety of delicious Taiwanese street food and snacks. During the day, the streets are empty and quiet, devoid of food carts, but come nighttime, it’s jam-packed with hungry people throughout the night.

 

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Taste testing at Eveleigh Farmers’ Markets

Like any good foodie city, Sydney has loads of great farmers’ and growers’ markets that pop up all over the place on the weekend. One of the most popular is the Eveleigh Farmers’ Market, which is on every Saturday morning from 8am.

In the past, this part of Eveleigh was a huge railyard, where Sydney’s suburban trains went to sleep at night. All the big sheds are still around, with most of them being converted to exhibition and conference facilities. This bustling little market stands still in the original rustic, style compared to the other shiny, renovated buildings around it.eveleigh marketseveleigh markets

There are lots of stalls selling a rainbow of fresh veggies and fruit, pastries and bread, colourful blooms, olive oils, cheeses, and even whole lambs. I couldn’t help but linger at the Eumundi Smokehouse stall to ogle at all their fresh and smoked sausages. The owner has been driving down from Eumundi, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, to the markets in Sydney every week for something like 15 years!  That’s dedication.eveleigh marketseveleigh marketseveleigh marketsOne of the things that the markets is known for is the pork buns at the Billy Kwong stall.  We catch a glimpse of chef Kylie Kwong manning the bun steamers, and wait patiently with scores of others for our steamed buns, topped with a dollop of scarlet red chilli sauce. The pork was sweet and very tender, and the bun itself was also sweet and soft. This meant that it felt like we were eating bite after bite of soft, sweet mush. Not bad, but probably a bit overrated.eveleigh markets pork bun

A much more successful tasting was a delicious steak sandwich, from which stall I forget now, as well as the cut of steak. I must have blissed out in beefy goodness. The steak was juicy and tender, with a lovely beefy flavour. The stall owners were also more than happy to load up my sandwich with more sweet, caramelised onions on request.eveleigh markets steak sandwichUnfortunately for us, we were on the motorbikes heading down to Wollongong for a day ride, which meant we weren’t able to stock up on goodies.  Oh well, an excuse to go back again another time!

 

Powder and poutine

I made my first trip to Canada earlier this month, all for the eternal search for powder.  The White Russian and I were prepared to be slightly disappointed, after initial dumps of snow at Whistler Blackcomb earlier in the season hadn’t continued to the weeks immediately before our departure.  However it was a stroke of luck that the weather forecast changed as soon as we arrived and we saw 5 consecutive days of snow.

Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow

With loads of fresh powder, the skiing was fantastic.  There ended up being 10 of us in our group, with some travelling from the UK to join us for some snow action.  We were constantly on the hunt for powder stashes, which we managed to find off piste and particularly some of the steeper black runs.

The visibility was fairly poor most of the time due to the layers of cloud that seemed to constantly sit at mid-mountain level, and then there were the snow flurries as well.  Sometimes you could barely see more than 10 metres ahead, resulting in some hairy near-collision moments.

Whistler Blackcomb snowboard Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow Whistler Blackcomb snow Olympic ringsWhistler Blackcomb gondola

We decided before we arrived that one of our snow days would be a onesie day.  I came prepared with a suitcase of onesies for everyone.  Needless to say, we drew a lot of admiration (or was it just curiosity?) on the slopes that day!

snow animal onesies

Being my first time in Canada, I was eager to try the poutine, Canada’s (un)official national dish of chips, cheese curds and gravy.  We even found a version with pulled pork!  Absolutely delicious.  Some of the other delicacies we found on the slopes included a Mexican bulldog, which consisted of a frozen margarita with an upturned Corona.

frozen margarita corona cocktail poutine pulled pork toffee applescheese fondue

All in all, Whistler Blackcomb was a fantastic mountain, with some really long piste runs, lots of light and fluffy powder, some challenging steep terrain, fairly fast moving lift queues, delicious selection of food at the restaurants, and lots of friendly faces and smiles (a lot of them Australian!).  It would probably be some of the best skiing I’ve experienced.

On the way home, we spent one night in Vancouver, wandering around Gastown, Chinatown, and the shopping along Granville Street.  Thankfully I had lots of room in my luggage after clearing out all those onesies!  We also had brunch at the Granville Island Public Market, where one could easily find themselves spending hours ogling at all the charcuterie, cheeses, cakes, seafood and fresh meat.  We got a tasty selection of cheeses (ossau iraty, comte, epoisses, goats cheese), some wild boar proscuitto and duck proscuitto, and a flavoursome duck and fig pate.

pasta Vancouver Granville Island markets charcuterie Vancouver Granville Island markets Japadog Japanese hotdog Vancouver

As we were leaving, we were already discussing next year’s overseas ski trip!  It’s always good to have the next trip to get excited about.

It’s a paella-fest

You don’t really need an excuse to escape the cold and grey London winter, but there is no better reason to go to Valencia than to feast on the local dish, paella. We were also belatedly celebrating our friend Suvendu’s birthday, which like mine falls during the Christmas holidays when everyone is inevitably away.

There were 15 of us travelling together in celebration, and you can imagine the nightmare involved in marshalling this many people to move to a common purpose – to eat paella. We made a detour through the Central Food Market where there were lots of goodies to make you drool, such as olive oils, cheeses and more jamon than you could poke a chorizo at.

 

 

 

We then headed to the beach in search of paella, but not before we had a play on the sand, had a snigger at a local guy proudly smuggling g-budgies (if you know what I mean!!), and a few brave souls dipped the toes in the freezing cold water. After a bit of wandering and indecision, our hunger got the better of us and we retreated to a busy seaside restaurant to get our fill of paella. We also ordered another local specialty, arroz negro, which is rice with seafood and coloured with squid ink so it comes in a shocking shade of black. It tasted much better than it looked, with a hearty seafood flavour, though a bit salty for my liking. It also gave everyone appealing looking black lips – no kissing today!

Most people were only in Valencia for just the Saturday, but I decided to spend the weekend here to make the most of the mild Spanish winter – I was walking around in a t-shirt! On the Sunday, I had a nice sleep-in and hearty breakfast before heading off to the Arts and Sciences Museum. It is a stunning, architecturally-designed set of complexes that also includes an aquarium. Due to the limited timeframe, I only had time to walk through the Science Museum, which had an interesting exhibition on sailing and another on DNA.

 

 

 

 

There is definitely so much to do here in Valencia that one weekend doesn’t do it justice!