The holidays

It’s almost become a tradition that I tell about our holidays here on the blog. But as the blog has developed away from the very personal it seems progressively awkward. Anyway, I promise to make it brief and with a digression or two…

We started in the UK where there was another Bar Mitzvah in the family, the fourth and so far last. Just like at the Bar Mitzvah two years ago, I took a picture of the rabbi’s legs. And no, it’s not the rabbi on the left. It’s her on the right.

 

We enjoyed a little time in London, I even found time to meet with some of my lovely Twitter-ladies, described elsewhere on this blog. We also fitted in a bit of shopping…

Off we flew to Switzerland to spend a few days in David’s flat. The weather was gorgeous, so we enjoyed a lot of time on the balcony and David and Dane also went swimming in the lake. Our first mission was to visit some friends who we met in the UK, but who have since moved to the south of France. They live in the most gorgeous house in Provence and we spent four lovely days with them.

As those of you who know me well will know, we, like so many other from the middle classes, have a penchant for Tuscany. We’ve been there 4-5 times before but still chose to go again. We’d rented a flat at an Agri Turismo place which was quite nice, but not fantastic. As we’ve seen most of the sights more than once before, we took it rather easy and spent most mornings leisurely at the pool. One of the highlights was a visit with my old friend Helle Tesio and her husband Alfredo. We go more than 30 years back. Helle took us to Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda where she teaches advanced Italian cooking to groups of agri-tourists. I so want to go on that course!

Unfortunately, towards the end of the holiday, Dane got ill (something that practically never happens), and he was really rather poorly. So it was a long journey home where it, to sort of further the misery, rained constantly between Genoa and Geneva. It turned out that what Dane had was the flu, which he generously passed on to David and me once we were back in Coppet. So a few days were torn out of the calendar.

At friends in Provence, France
Best ice cream in Tuscany
Lizard caught in a glass (released min's later)

Fattoria del Colle, Trequanda

Siena wedding. Rather romantic.

San Gigmignano in the sunset

Dane and I are back now in Denmark where it is gloomily wet and only warm when the sun is out and where our basement was flooded once more. I’ve had the wood burning stove lit already!

Today I was reminded of our trip to Australia in 2008. The reminder was a talk about cake. When we were there, we were rather surprised by their consistently excellent coffee *flat whites* and the ubiquitous banana bread which is served warm with butter. When we came back, Dane asked me to bake it and I baked a random banana cake. It wasn’t right. Baked my way through numerous banana cake/bread recipes before I found one that Dane could approve of. So I baked one today. Here’s the recipe:

Banana bread

* 265g (1 3/4 cups) self-raising flour

* 40g (1/4 cup) plain flour

* 1 tsp ground cinnamon

* 140g (2/3 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar

* 125ml (1/2 cup) skim milk

* 2 eggs, lightly whisked

* 50g butter, melted, cooled

* 2 overripe medium bananas, mashed

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush an 11 x 21cm (base measurement) loaf pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line the base and 2 opposite sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing it to overhang.

2. Sift the combined flours and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre. Place the milk, eggs, melted butter and banana in a medium bowl, and stir until well combined. Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven and set aside in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into slices to serve.

 

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Yosemite

Based upon the weather forecast we decided that the weekend would be the right time to visit Yosemite. It is very cold there (compared to here, that is), but the forecast promised two days of sunshine, so we got up early Saturday morning and drove east. The drive was four hours, mostly through rather dull country with vast suburbs and industrial complexes. But approx. an hour before reaching the park, the climb begins and the countryside is transformed. The mountains in Yosemite are up to 12.000 ft (4.000 m.), so what rises in front of you is indeed impressive! What surprised us was the snow – the park was covered, except the valley, which apparently almost never sees snow due to the very special meteorological conditions there.

We had booked a room at the famous Wawona hotel (as the even more famous Ahwahnee was fully booked and too expensive anyway) and checked in at 1 pm. We dressed for the weather – cold but beautiful – and drove into the Yosemite Valley. Even though prepared for some astounding sights, nothing can prepare you for the vastness of it all. Many of the roads are closed during winter, so two days were sufficient to see the sights of the valley, the museum, the Ansel Adams gallery and the visitors’ centre with a fine and child-friendly exhibition about the evolutionary history of Yosemite.

We have come to appreciate the park rangers very much. They are always very forthcoming, very polite and very well informed. So we usually make a point of talking to some of them, when we visit a state park. The handsome ranger (check his crisp uniform) on this picture surprised us by saying: “Oh, Denmark, that’s where Hans Christian Andersen, Carl Nielsen and Karen Blixen are from!” Wauw! Most people know about H.C. Andersen, but not a lot of Americans know of Carl Nielsen. The ranger played the clarinet it turned out, and Carl Nielsen’s 5th symphony was his favourite…

We stepped out of the car to take photo shots and make short hikes every ten minutes or so, caught the sunset and then headed back to the Wawona. Staying at that hotel was a mixed experience. The bar and lounge next to the dining room were beautifully decorated for Christmas, a log fire was burning and there were lots of people in festive spirits, even though everybody was dressed for hiking. There was a pianist playing WW II songs (Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, etc) and chatting with the guests and we had cocktails before dinner – all very much in sync with the spirit of the place. The dining room was also pretty and the waiters nice and attentive. The food was not memorable, but the draft was! I think you could fly a kite with the gusts that came from under the veranda door!

Dane was very tired, so we quickly went to our room. Quite a nice room with a double and a single bed and a nice bathroom. And it was sweltering in there (we’re guessing 85 degrees F (28 C)), which felt nice coming from the icy dining room and the freeze outside, but felt uncomfortable as we discovered that the heating couldn’t be turned down. OK, we opened a window and let a bit of freezing air in. But then there was the constant loud hissing of air escaping from the vent and the irregular clanging. Have any of you ever been to a place with a pre-war, cast-iron radiator central heating system? Then you’ve experienced the clanging, when the system overheats. We really tried to sleep, but it was impossible. After much swearing and cussing David got dressed and went over to the reception (you have to cross a large courtyard) to ask for another room. So in the middle of the night, we transferred – with sleeping Dane – to another room across the yard. Oh, what a difference that made! Normal temperature and absolutely no noise!

The breakfast was included and very nice. Dane had waffles with honey and hot chocolate and was MMMMM’ing a lot. Then we went ahead and saw more stunningly beautiful views and went for more lovely walks through the impressive woods. I won’t bore you with inept descriptions, but have a look at more pictures here, to get an impression.


By eight o’clock we were back home, very happy that we’d taken the trip.

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