What to Eat in Sri Lanka

It took me a while to reach my food peak in Sri Lanka.  And to be honest our first week of eating (apart from in the capital, Colombo) I was pretty non-plussed.  In that first week we were in the hill country (Kandy and Ella) and then on safari in Udawale (which is in the middle of nowhere) – and for whatever reason, they were feeding tourists pretty basic stuff in these places. Or maybe I didn’t look hard enough.

However, as soon as we hit the coastal resorts of Tangalle, Mirissa and Galle – our food experiences rocketed, and we ate an awesome array of interesting curries (including banana flower and tamarind root) and great rotis and hoppers (more on what they are below), and I came away excited for more Sri Lankan food experiences.

I’m going to talk you through the different dishes we had, starting with the hoppers:

Hoppers

They are a kind of crater shaped pancake made with rice flour and coconut milk.  Fillings vary from savoury to sweet, but the most popular are cheese, egg and curries or if you’re going sweet there’s nutella, ice-cream of fruit fillings.

sri lanka An egg hopper, a cheese hopper and a roti wrap
An egg hopper, a cheese hopper and a roti wrap

Lassis

I think you’ve probably all heard of lassis – a delicious yoghurty milkshake.  We had some crackers out there.

Banana lassi

Fruit Juices

I became obsessed with juices in Sri Lanka. Every day was an opportunity to sample a new variety, favourites included:

  • passion fruit
  • mango
  • papaya
  • watermelon, mint and ginger
Passion fruit juice

Fruit Platters

I decided to go on a bit of a health kick in Sri Lanka.  This still involved booze every night, but other than that I stuck to a light breakfast, and a modest lunch and dinner, with no snacks (unheard of for me).  Fortunately the astonishing fruit we would have for breakfast every morning made ‘light breakfasts’ a breeze – I never felt I was missing out.

Enough fruit for two?

Kottu

Kottu is a bit like egg fried rice, but instead of rice, there’s chopped up roti (flatbread) thrown in instead.  You could have pretty much any variety of kottu – whether that was egg, cheese, fish, chicken, veg. I don’t think it was the most healthy thing we ate on our trip, but it was brilliant comfort food – full of spice and heat and flavour – and it was the meal that no matter how poor the options were in a restaurant, we knew it would be tasty.  In fact, if you need another comparison, it was a bit like a Sri Lankan take on bubble and squek.

Chicken kottu

Rotis

Rotis are basically flatbread, but we ate them in so many different versions including the kottu which I just described.  I personally was a big fan of just a plain coconut roti, maybe with a spicy sauce to dip it in.  Another options was a samosa type roti filled with potato curry – a cold version of this was sold at pretty much every corner shop in Sri Lanka and rightly so – it was a tasty 20p snack! Another clever adaption was a roti wrap – whatever filling you desire wrapped in a roti and fried on a griddle pan – I tried a prawn, egg and tomato number which was a winner.

Unusual Curries

We certainly had some nice curries on our travels – veg curries, seafood curries, but until we got to the colonial town of Galle, we hadn’t had anything that seemed that unusual or particular to Sri Lanka. But in Galle we had two magnificent and very local curry experiences.

First there was Coconut Sambal – a dinky little place that only seated about 10 people. They offered an all you can eat buffet of curries all served in 6 clay pots (for about £5 a head).  We were given an little basket tray with a plastic sheet to put our food on and off we went.  The curries were: chicken, ‘meat’, mango, dal, banana and aubergine and there was coconut sambal for sprinkling (a spicy grated coconut mix). It was a delicious meal and I loved that it was a tiny little authentic set up – it felt cosy and fun. And the mango was curry was a revelation – I’ve had mango chutney – but this was a hot juicy curry – it was beautiful and really complimented the other dishes.

Sri Lanka Coconut Sambal
Coconut Sambal
Sri Lanka Curry in a basket at Coconut Sambal
Curry in a basket at Coconut Sambal

The second destination was not as interactive and fun as Coconut Sambal – but Lucky Fort Restaurant served the most extraordinary food. We paid £15 between us and received ten curries to share (with rice).  It was an unusual line up and I’d struggle to choose the most delicious, but I think their stewed mango may have won again.  These were the curries:

  1. Chicken
  2. Stewed mango
  3. Banana flower
  4. Tamarind root
  5. Green beans
  6. Pumpkin
  7. Sweet potatoes
  8. Crispy aubergines like crispy onions
  9. Dal
  10. Okra

I would go back to Sri Lanka just to have this meal again. It was such a unique and tasty experience.

Sri Lanka The ten curry bonanza at Lucky Fort
The ten curry bonanza at Lucky Fort

Bad Food Experiences

The stuff I was less wowed by – any food that was ‘devilled’ – menus always offered devilled chicken or beef or prawns – basically a lame version of sweet and sour.

Anything involving packaged white bread (which was quite a lot).  Sri Lankans eat roti not this pap, but I guess tourists often want home comforts.

Any attempts at salad were pretty hilarious, usually involved a few tomatoes, lettuce and some rubbery meat. I mean I should have known better really – Sri Lankans don’t eat salads themselves, so why would they be good at salads?

Inspiration

I was very inspired by the Sri Lankan food so we will be attempting to create some of these lovely dishes by trying recipes from the brilliant Weligama cookbook by Emily Dobbs.  Watch this space as I may even blog about our attempts!

Sri Lanka Weligama Cookbook
Weligama Cookbook

Sri Lanka Awesomeness

I certainly thought Sri Lanka would be a nice holiday, but it was so much more than that.  Sri Lanka is lush and green and teaming with life – the people are colourful and you can’t avoid the wildlife (in a good way!) – especially the monkeys and the lizards.  We were there for just two weeks, and boy, did we have an adventure.

Colombo

We arrived on Sunday evening in Colombo, the huge capital city.  The owner of our guesthouse Dolce Casa was a super helpful and clever Italian lady called Florence.  She gave us loads of practical advice on Sri Lanka and Colombo.  Thanks to Florence’s ultra efficiency, along with the chilled vibes we instantly felt in Sri Lanka, I was feeling very much at home already.

The next day we were due to travel to Kandy at 3pm, and by following Florence’s very exact itinerary on the best local sights in Colombo, we fitted quite a bit into our day:

  1. A quick visit to the Gangaramaya Buddhist Temple, which was kind of interesting, but if I’m honest was a bit too much of a tourist joint for me.
  2. A papaya juice at the decadent Galle Face colonial hotel.
  3. A ridiculously rushed (but tasty) lunch at the Ministry of Crab.

This hectic approach may not be the ideal way to experience Colombo – but we quite enjoyed it.  And being able to get tuk tuks for £1 a journey certainly helped.

Next up was our train to Kandy – which was just 2.5 hours and a rather nice experience.  By paying a bit more (all of £10) we ended up in the observation carriage which is air conditionned and reserved just for tourists.

Sri Lanka Crab time, at Ministry of Crab
Crab time, at Ministry of Crab

Kandy

Kandy is in Sri Lanka’s hill country – I wasn’t wowed by it but we still had a nice time there.  I found it an intense, slightly overwhelming city. But our guesthouse up on the hill had pretty views.

What was good about Kandy was that it was a great base to go to Sigiriya Rock – which is about a 2 hour drive away.

sri lanka The stunning (if slightly misty!) view from our B&B in Kandy
The stunning (if slightly misty!) view from our B&B in Kandy

Sigiriya Rock

Is an ancient rock fortress dating back to the 5th century.  Sometimes I’m not very interested in historical ‘stuff’, but this place is magical.  It’s quite a sweaty climb (it takes about an hour), but when you get to the top, you feel like you’ve entered a mystical land.

Sri Lanka Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya Rock

Kandy to Ella by Train

Our next destination was Ella, but this was a 7 hour train journey away, it is apparently one of the world’s most epic train journeys.  Ok, we travelled through some stunning tea plantation scenery on the train, which was quite something, but if I’m honest it didn’t live up to the hype for me.  7 hours on a train is still 7 hours on a train – a bit too long.

Sri Lanka
The famous Kandy to Ella train journey

Ella 

Initially I fell in love with hill country town Ella – it seemed hippy and chilled and the surrounding hills are jaw droppingly picturesque.  However my feelings soured quickly when I realised this tiny town was a backpacking mecca. Everywhere I turned there was some traveller boasting about their escapades – it was a little suffocating.

However what was spectacular about Ella, was our walk up to Ella Rock, which was a special and tingly experience. We met with our local guide at 6am (while it was still dark) and started our two hour journey up to this glorious peak.  We walked along a railway line, past waterfalls and up a really steep climb at the end.  And, best of all we were the only tourists up there because it was so early.  The views, and the atmosphere were breathtaking.  And our local guide Abi, was the sweetest guy – he really made the trip for me too.

Sri Lanka Our trusty guide, Abi, at the top of Ella Rock
Our trusty guide, Abi, at the top of Ella Rock

Udawale Safari

Having identified that I don’t like long journeys on public transport, we opted for an air conditioned taxi to our next destination, Udawale, which was 2 hours way.  It was gloriously easy.  On arrival we booked ourselves onto a safari jeep and headed off to the wildlife park. I was trying to keep my expectations in check, as I wasn’t sure if we’d see much.  But we were in luck, we must have seen about 30 elephants (and quite a few babies) and most were in spitting distance of the car.  They were so graceful and elegant to watch. We also saw eagles, pretty bright green bee-eater birds, water buffallos, alligators and peacocks. Brilliant.

Sri Lanka Beautiful Elephants
Beautiful Elephants

Tangalle Beach

A quick 1.5 hours in a taxi and we were in Tangalle. When the taxi driver dumped us by a lake with a pulley boat to get accross to our guesthouse, I started to get nervous about how remote this place was. As it happens, it was pretty remote, but that didn’t matter, because the beach was like paradise, and the guesthouse served exceptional food, so we didn’t need anything else for two days.  It was a lovely bit of time for relaxation and reading after all the hecticness of the previous week.

Sri Lanka Beach idiotics at Tangalle
Beach idiotics at Tangalle

Mirissa Beach

We downgraded to a tuk tuk to get to our next destination – which took a couple of hours and was a lot of fun.  However when we arrived in Mirissa I was slightly horrified, it appeared we’d arrived in Sri Lanka’s version of Benidorm – the beach was rammed with burnt tourists. We were both really turned off.  But, as we settled in, we started to adjust to being in a busy environment (the beach at Tangalle had been empty and vast), and actually started to totally fall in the love with the surfy, yogic hippy vibe of Mirissa.

Sri Lanka Chilled Mirissa
Chilled Mirissa

Galle

Galle was our final destination and what a beautiful one to end at.  It’s a Unesco World Heritage Site and an old trading port full of imposing Dutch-colonial buildings, ancient mosques and churches, grand mansions and museums.  Apparently it’s had a lot of money pumped into it since the 2004 tsunamai because a lot of charities based themselves in Galle. It was definitely our poshest stop off. I really enjoyed walking round the ancient city walls and looking at all the glamourous colonial buildings. And we had the BEST meal of our holiday at Lucky Galle Fort restaurant where we shared 10 curries for just £7.50.  These curries were exquisite – including banana flower, crispy fried aubergine, tamarind root, mango curry (basically stewed mango) and pumpkin curry.  Every mouthful was a taste sensation.

Sri Lanka Galle
Lanka Galle

I felt sadder leaving Sri Lanka than I normally do at the end of a holiday – I was treated to a slice of paradise on this island – the scenery, the gentle people, the crazy monkeys and lizards, the tasty curries and rotis – and there was always so much colour and life going on around us. I’m glad I’ve got a lovely load of cherished memories and photos to hang on to.

More Sri Lanka Blog Posts

I will be writing some more blog posts on my Sri Lanka trip if you’re interested where I’ll be going into more details on the destinations we went to.  I’ll also write one on our Sri Lanka food experiences.

Cost

And for those thinkng about going to Sri Lanka you might be interested to know how much we spent in 2 weeks:

Our flights with Emirates cost about £500 each from Manchester (with a stop off in Dubai) – and our journey time in total was 14 hours.

Our accommodation in total was about £600, and each place ranged from £25 a night to £75 a night, but we mainly paid about £35 a night.  And you really get a lot for your money for that. We weren’t staying in particularly posh places, but they were all clean and really nice and we were treated like royalty by the staff.

And while we were out there we spent between us about £800, so £400 each – and that included several long distance taxis, a safari, entrance to Sigiriya Rock and lots of lovely meals and cocktails! If you’re thinking of going on a budget  you could easily do it cheaper and have a nice time.

Total Spend

Was about £2400, so £1200 each.

Why Puglia Was Not The Rustic Dream Holiday I Thought it Would be

I think sometimes I big up a destination in my head so much, that it can’t live up to expectation.

And I was very excited about my rustic holiday to Puglia (the heel of Italy).

I’d heard it was a less touristy region than many places in Italy, and it would be very rural and simple, and that I’d be able to eat amazing food for very little money.

So I was a bit grumpy at discovering on arrival, a lot of tourists and restaurants very much catering for them.  They were ruining my authentic experience of Southern Italy!  Damn you Justin Timberlake for getting married in Puglia and starting an influx of American visitors and unrusticking it.

We didn’t help ourselves by getting into the habit of eating croissants every morning.  Not sure what we were thinking as they are not bloody Italian.  Then for lunch, out of ease we started eating pucce (Puglian ciabatta) toasties with proscuitto and mozzarella every day – very nice, but it’s not exactly an enriching culinary experience. And in the evenings we weren’t faring much better, and frankly kept making crap, touristy, lazy choices.

On our fourth day, I broke my croissant fix and chose an Italian chocolate cake for breakfast.  And omg it was so stale.  It was the last straw.  I had a massive grumble to Jamie and said I wasn’t having the authentic Italian experience I wanted. Poor Jamie, I really moaned.  I banged on about all the amazing, cheap mind blowing meals I’d had in Italy on my 7 previous trips, and that I was disappointed.  In hindsight though, I was lumping together all the food highlights from each trip, leaving my perspective a bit skewed.

So we got a bit more organised and started scrutinising reviews on TripAdvisor before making restaurant choices, and just generally being a bit more fussy, and I also conceded that we might have to pay for quality (gasp!).

And guess what? Things got better.

Highlights included the chewiest chocolatiest torte, a divine carrot and orange cake, a very melty piece of lamb, two phenomenal octopus sandwiches (so fresh), a super crispy lasagne made with spinach lasagne sheets and lamb, a beautiful aubergine and cheese ravioli, oh yes and lets not forget cannoli – deep fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta.

Puglia Deep fried Octopus in a bun - heaven!
Deep fried Octopus in a bun – heaven!
Puglia Aubergine and cheese ravioli
Aubergine and cheese ravioli
Puglia Possibly the best lamb I've ever eaten
Possibly the best lamb I’ve ever eaten
Puglia Breakfast at a proper old fashioned Italian cake shop - a culinary success this time!
Breakfast at a proper old fashioned Italian cake shop – a culinary success this time!

And do you know what, despite a bit of whinging on my part, we had a really nice holiday, Puglia is beautiful, and most of it is rustic.  In particular I fell in love with the remote and rugged beaches, with the bluest, clearest seas.  And the ancient towns and villages at the top of hills like Lecce and Ostuni are gorgeous.  And in terms of taking photos, it’s pure Instagram gold. Lovely light, beautiful crumbly old buildings, colourful doors, blue seas – it was iPhone photo ecstasy!

Puglia This was an olive oil tasting at a fabulous olive farm visited
This was an olive oil tasting at a fabulous olive farm visited
Puglia Beautiful Punta Proscuitto beach
Beautiful Punta Proscuitto beach

 

 

 

Go to Goa – go on!

On 3rd November Jamie and I boarded a plane in freezing cold Manchester and eight and a half hours later arrived in sunny Goa at seven in the morning.

From Dabolim airport it was a hairy, cow dodging taxi ride to Patnem, but an hour later we were at the beach.

As we dragged our wheely suitcases along the sand to our accommodation at Sea Front Beach Huts, I eagerly stared around trying to soak up the atmosphere of the place.  And I spied relaxed, hippy looking types, supping on lassis and masalas teas.  They looked happy – this was a postive sign – I sensed we were going to have a very good time.

In the weeks leading up to the holiday, I had made lots of plans as to how we’d spend our fortnight – day trips, local markets and perhaps an outing to a spice farm.

Then when we got there, reality hit.  It was so damn hot and nice.   I literally couldn’t arsed to move much.  Forget day trips, I wanted to do nothing.

Goa
Patnem Beach

It was a very long 14 days, filled with competitive scrabble playing, book reading and watching the world go by on the beach.  The Goans are delightful people – charming, happy and friendly and this was a big part of why we enjoyed Patnem so much.

We started out literally having curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner – which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But after a few days I was starting crave fresh fruit and veg, and eating paratha (Indian layered bread) three times a day was leaving me feeling bloated.  So we moved on to amazing smoothie bowls with fresh fruit at ‘Zest’ health cafe for breakfast, and tasty salads for lunch at ‘Home’, a peaceful and pretty beach front restaurant.  We stayed committed to curries in the evenings though when we’d jump in a rickshaw and drive a mile down the road to lively Palolem for dinner and drinks.

Despite never leaving the two neighbouring beaches of Patnem and Palolem for a fortnight, it still felt like such an adventure.  Just the interactions we were having with local waiters, shop owners and rickshaw drivers felt exciting and interesting.  And the atmosphere of Patnem itself, which is known for its many yoga schools, felt exotic – not only because of the melting pot of nationalities hanging out there: Israelis, Germans, Russians, Brits and even Indians on holiday, but the yoga vibe of the resort was very different to any holiday I’ve ever been on. Watching people do classes on the beach was fascinating – admittedly sometimes the chanting got on my nerves, but largely I loved watching the focus, dedication and grace of these people learning their skill.

When it was time to go back to the UK, Jamie and I were both really sad.  It had been a magical experience.  It wasn’t a hard core immersion into Indian culture – Jamie described it as ‘India light’ – a gentle introduction to the country without the chaos and hassle you might receive in other Indian tourist spots.  Two weeks of beautiful beach with my excellent boyfriend in gorgeous hot sunshine, surrounded by lovely Goans – I couldn’t have asked for more.

 

Goa 5
Smoothie bowl at Zest Cafe
Goa 5
Soaking in local life on one of my evening beach walks (they are dipping a little kid in the water if you are wondering what’s happening!)
Rickshaw ride to Palolem beach whilst dodging the cows in the road
Goa 6
At Home, our favourite lunchtime restaurant
Goa 7
I couldn’t get enough of the curries in Goa (or the banana lassis!)

Chateaux, Pigs, Good Cheese and Sexy French Men: Five Memorable Days in the Loire Valley

I knew the writing course I’d signed myself up to would be good.  The description of the workshop seduced me on the spot.

Five days of scoffing french food; a truffle hunt; local food market and winery visits; accommodation in a renovated 16th century mansion – now a hotel, and I would be taught by two accomplished food writers.  Everything about the course screamed out to me – food is an art form in France and I was desperate to immerse myself in their food culture.

Over the course of the trip I rammed smelly cheeses, light wines, sweet radishes, quiches and saucisson down my gullet.  And let’s not forget the superb patisserie.  There was very little that passed my lips that wasn’t exquisitely fresh and locally sourced.  And eating was always delightfully social.  Long breakfasts around the fire in the morning, chatty picnic lunches between classes, brilliant nights out in local restaurants.  The whirlwind of gorgeous meals and the French reverence towards eating that went with it cultivated the perfect environment to learn the craft of food writing.

For all of us the truffle hunt was a huge highlight. Which had a lot more to do with the the handsome and energetic truffle hunter Louis Houette than his descriptions of the complex ecosystems of truffle farming.

French: Truffle Hunter
Louis the truffle hunter

Next in the hierarchy list of interest on this trip were the excitable piggies Speedy and Gonzales – Louis discovered he couldn’t actually use them for truffle hunting because although they’d find the truffles, they would just eat them. So he decided to keep them as pets/tourist attractions.

French: Truffle Pig
Speedy the pig

Following on from the piggies here’s the order of my remaining truffle hunt highlights:

  • Louis’ Border Collie, Touk Touk – the true truffle hunter – a wildly affectionate and obedient dog who can sniff out truffles from 50 metres away.
  • The two inquisisitive and friendly horses on the farm who nearly knocked me over in their enthusiasm to get to know me.
  • The magical truffle butter and baguette we sampled at the end – what a creamy heady buttery hit that was.
  • And lastly the elegant Houette family chateau that we nosed around while eating our buttered treats.
French: Baguette and Truffle Butter
Butter and shaved truffle on baguette
French: Chateau
The Houette family home – I have chateau envy

On another day we were sent out with notepads to Chinon’s food market.  We were to observe and jot down what we saw – colours, shapes, sounds, movements, people and events. I have never approached writing like this.  For me my writing process involves a rambling memory based effort, so I rather liked having to tune in and focus all my senses on this experience.

And after two hours of lots of listening, watching and scribbling, I returned icy toed and numb fingered to Hotel Diderot to share my writing with the group and to eat an enormous picnic of our joint purchases.  14 people sharing local cheese, sausages, breads, fruit, salads, rottiserie chicken and patisserie creates a spectacular spread.  If only I could lunch like that every day!

On the Winery visit we were yet again dazzled by a sexy french man.  Sebastian (below) runs Chateau du Petit Thouars with his father.  He was literally bouncing with enthusiasm and humour.  Just like our truffle tour, I found myself rather more interested in Sebastian himself than his talk of appellation and soil composition.  The outing was completed with a wine tasting and pot eu feu (beef stew) and tarte au verginon (apple tart with wine jelly) for lunch – the experience made all the more interesting by Sebastian’s flamboyant hosting style. The six wines were delicate and delicious  – the most popular being an 8 euro cremant – a sparkling wine that tastes just like champagne.  My workshop buddies stocked up while I cursed myself for flying with hand luggage only.

French: Sexy Sebastian
Sexy Sebastian – I didn’t really listen to anything educational he said but his enthusiasm and humour were infectious
French: Chateau in the sun
Sebastian’s chateau – he lives in this enormous chateau with his wife, two kids and his dad!
French: La tarte au vigneron
La tarte au vigneron – made with jellied wine, this tastes quite like a boozy trifle but with a delicate crispy pastry bottom

My time in France was such an adventure. If only all learning could be so hedonistic.  The interesting activities, delicious food and the nurturing and safe environment created by the teachers Dianne Jacob and Jamie Schler enabled us all to learn with ease and excitement.  I’ve come back to England inspired.  I feel focussed and confident about how to improve my writing. And the passion and intelligence of the French food artisans we met and the quality of the food that they produced has made me very sure that I need to discover and blog about people making great food in my area.  

 

Raising The Bar on my Snapping Skills: Food Photography Workshop

On Saturday I rocked up at Clapham Studios  in Lavender Hill, London to attend a food photography workshop. I had no idea what to expect – but as I’m trying to build a career in food marketing I figured it would be pretty useful.

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Carole sets up for the morning session

Pictured above was our lovely tutor Carole.  In the morning we focussed on technical talk. Aperture, shutter speed, how to make the most of lighting, why it’s important to use a tripod, colour theory etc. Ok this totally was not my favourite bit of the course, but it really was bloody useful.

Next up Aimee the second tutor on the course styled a cake for us, creating a scene for us to photograph.  The cake (a four tier butternut squash cake – yum) got adorned with beautiful flowers and the background was made up using autumnal influences, ingredients from the cake and vintage accessories – so things like ivy, leaves, apples, blackberries and butternut squash.  It was very informative to see how Aimee put the display together.  I’ve always been a bit unimaginative and literal about my food photography  –  for me it’s just an aerial photo of a plate of food and job done!  I now know better.

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An autumnal cakey scene

After a lot of snapping of this styled piece we were treated to a very tasty lunch of homemade quiche and salads and obviously great big slabs of cake! Get in!   Lunch was a nice opportunity to get to know everyone in the group – we had bloggers, a personal chef, a pastry maker, a cookbook writer. It was really interesting to hear about everyone’s motivation for doing the course.

The afternoon session was the most fun because we got to be creative. We started with Carole demonstrating a flat lay – i.e. – creating a scene on the floor which you photograph from above.  Carole talked us through her creative thought process as she laid out her accessories – making sure to create some layers and movement within the scene. Then it was our turn and we were given free rein to put together our own scene . I got very enthusiastic and did three!

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Flat lay 1
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Flat lay 2

 

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Flat lay 3

The final part of the class was doing a three dimensional side view picture, so again the tutor showed us what to do – and here layering and getting the sizes of accessories in an eye pleasing order was particularly important.  This was my attempt below.

 

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Side view

The course gave me so many ideas about how to set up pictures and to be indulgent about really taking my time to get it right.  I’ve been practising since and I’m pretty pleased with the outcome! Have a look below.  I think my photos are really starting to look professional. I’ve also been shopping for accessory nick nacks on amazon and in charity shops – hence the nice tea towels and vintage crockery. And I bought a white box with lighting (very cheap online) which also makes a big difference to how bright my photos look.

 

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Jamie Oliver beef and sweet potato samosas
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Jamie Oliver skinny carbonara

If you’d like to find out more about the courses that Carole and Aimee run here are the links to their websites:

 

http://www.mademoisellepoirot.com/

http://www.twiggstudios.com/

 

A Tremendous Tour of Trellick Tower With Open House London

If you’ve not heard of it, Open House London is an annual festival where buildings and homes of architectural interest are open to the public to have a browse.  Sounds excellent, but it’s actually really difficult to get into any of the buildings! The best ones you have to sign up to weeks in advance online.  We failed to do this. However on Sunday we thought we’d chance our arm (s) and hang around outside the iconic Trellick Tower near Portobello Market and see if we could get on a tour anyway.

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Beautiful graffiti at the foot of Trellick Tower
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Precariously balanced graffiti artists

By a complete stroke of luck, we got squeezed on a tour.  But by now my expectations were low.  It’s such a striking building from the outside, but when you get close to the building the area around it is very run down and the building itself looked pretty grotty and unloved. Was it worth looking inside?

However, first good sign – our tour guide was sprightly, clever and fun, and in the lift we got, up to the 18th floor.  And wow! We were greeted with a pop of bright yellow! There was shining yellow tiling everywhere – all around the lift shaft and up the corridors.  It was so cheering and contemporary – it looked amazing.  I couldn’t believe the tiles looked so good after over 40 years (Trellick was built in 1972).

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Apparently all the other floors have different coloured tiles.  The Brutalist architect Goldfinger chose to use these upbeat tiles and a lot of big windows in the corridors to ensure residents got a good burst of light in their flats and would feel uplifted as they walked down the corridors to their homes. Very progressive thinking for social housing in the 70s.

And excitement, we were going to to see two examples of Trellick flats.  I love nosing around people’s places, especially if I can steal interior ideas.

First of all we walked into a one bedroom flat (which was as it turned out owned by the tour guide) – it was very compact: small bedroom, small lounge, small kitchen – but it was rather lovely and most importantly the views of London were stunning!

Next up we went into a three bedroom flat, the friendly owner and his enthusiastic fluffy dog greeted us at the top of the stairs.  It was an attractive, tasteful flat packed with great vintage furniture and most of the rooms had incredible views.

I was particularly enamoured with the kitchen – and was keen to find out how I could replicate the yellow kitchen cupboards.  Cue me bothering the owner who kindly explained how to achieve the look (Ikea cupboards and Farrow and Ball paint if you are interested).

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Kitchen envy
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Best bedroom view ever
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Me having a vertigo moment – looking over the balcony at 18 floors was frightening
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View of the basketball court from 31st floor – don’t fall!
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Iconic stained glass windows – all a bit Doctor Who!

In just half an hour I felt that we’d been transported into another world! It was a very interesting, enjoyable and even better – completely free – tour.  We felt privileged that the tour guide and his neighbour so generously gave up their time to let us trample through their homes.