Category Archives: Food & Travel

Minimal beat

As is the way with the internet, I was looking for one thing, stumbled across another and before I knew it was back ‘down the rabbit hole’ again. This happens to me ALL. THE. TIME. Rarely does it add any value to my life, but when it does it’s a joyful victory.
Anyway one day as the googling began, I discovered Lindsey Stirling. I don’t know much about her and had not heard of her before, but I now think she is very cool and rate this music video as one of the best ever. No booty shakin’. No gratuitous making out. Just a very talented babe, doin’ her thang.

More importantly – she’s doing it all over the world.  I don’t really live anywhere at the moment and am travelling more often than not so I can really relate to this video – especially when your work is the reason your travel as it is with Lindsey.  People seem to think it is a very glamorous life, and don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of cool things about it. However the reality is that it exists because of the work, so just like you, we get up, fumble for coffee, pull all the creative stuff we need out of our brains. We work all day – or sometimes all night as time zones are a huge feature of my job – and wistfully think about hanging out with friends and doing cool stuff.

Anyway check out Lindsey’s very cool video and enjoy a very small round the world trip to break up your day.

Singapore fling

Today I’m a travel writer.

I have been whizzing about the fab small island of Singapore doing meet and greets all morning with boutique accommodation providers and checking out some very cool new places to sleep in the city, if a sky high infinity pool is NOT your priority. Adrian from Bunc Hostel was the greatest host and we had a delicious classic Singaporean lunch together at Maxwell with all my faves on the menu. 

I have been backpacking for years, and a tight budget is not always my reason to stay in hostels. I actually really like the atmosphere, the chance to meet other travellers, and the fact that you can be more of a person at a hostel. They nearly always have recreation rooms, with comfortable corners to sit in, and there is always a place to make a cup of tea and a well loved book collection to flick through. Bunc has all of this and more! I had a great stay there and highly recommend it.  Not only are there dorms but they also have great double rooms and a very cool rooftop space with bean bags and movies and that glorious Singapore sunset.

Around the corner from Bunc, the inspiring typewriter room at Wanderlust Hotel  has to be my favourite. OF COURSE you want a giant typewriter for a couch in your hotel. Obviously. There is also a bathtub NEXT TO that couch in the lounge room facing the TV. Yep. And a lego inspired jacuzzi on the roof, with chairs in the shape of elephants to kick back in and enjoy the views.

Thanks imagination. you did it again.

IMAGES © MELINDA BARLOW, BUNC HOSTEL MEDIA, WANDERLUST HOTEL MEDIA

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Short Story. ‘Berlin Daze’

Excerpt from short story. ‘Berlin Daze’.  Published 2013.  NT Literary Awards Publication

Shortlisted.  Northern Territory Literary Awards.  Charles Darwin University Travel Category.

“…My new friends in Berlin welcomed me warmly.  My German crept along, as we blew the dust off their English.  An old friend I came to be with was kind and patient as she translated so much between me and everyone else.  We drank Radlers, and moved from one plate of Spargel to the next.  We walked and walked.  We drove laps of Kreuzberg looking for new and interesting cafes, and I looked longingly at Görlitzer Park – wanting a day with a book in the grass.  But waking in the afternoon and moving blearily through the week made any kinds of outings seem too much. Tomorrow I’d say, and then wouldn’t go.

Sunlight streamed down upon Unter Den Linden.  Tourists rumbled over it, many with no sense of it.  I would see them with their cameras and my mind would fill with black and white images of women picking vegetables in this very place.  Back when Pariser Platz fed a starving city.  Back when the zoo animals roamed the streets.  I wondered what music people played when the wall came down.  It’s always urban, pop music, bouncy and joyous in my imaginings – music for dancing and squealing to.   But then I read about a man with a violin, how when the wall came down he played for the people, tears streaming down his cheeks, and I imagined this was in a less graffitied part of…”

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Chefchaouen: Escape into the Blue

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Travel is my favourite thing to write about, so when I was asked to write for travel website Informed Explorer recently I was thrilled. Sometimes you visit places and the memories lodge in those dream places in your mind and take on a different life.  Chefchaouen was that for me.  It’s an out of the way destination in Northern Morocco that you need to make the effort to get to but it’s well worth it and is one of the rare places I have sworn I will go back to.

Travelling through Morocco is a wondrous experience – no doubt about it.  But if you are a woman travelling alone, there is a large proportion of your trip that will be spent saying no to people trying to sell you things and no, but thank you, to people wanting to marry you.  This of course is not really a hardship, however it does get tiresome, despite the fact that Moroccans are some of the warmest and friendliest people on earth.

So for some much needed respite, my hottest tip for Morocco is to run for the hills!  The Rif Mountains to be specific.  Here you will find the magical blue hued village of Chefchaouen – a place of great history, unanswered questions and traditions kept alive around many a corner.

Located in Northern Morocco, just a couple of hours south of Tangier’s port, Chefchaouen was founded in the 1400’s as a fortress to protect the North against invasion from the Portuguese. It was settled by local Berber tribes, and Moroccan and Andalusian influences still dominate the culture of the town.

However it is the Jewish inhabitants who left the greatest mark on Chefchaouen. Alleyways, houses, floors and walls are all painted in various shades of blue – a legacy of their faith and a practice that is still in place today.  The tradition was started in the early 1900’s in spiritual recognition of the sacred colour of the sea and sky – blue. Judaism recognises blue as symbolic of God and heaven so the houses were painted as a reminder of this. The effect is mesmerizing to say the least. Old Chefchaouen is yet to succumb to commercialism and strolling through its streets is like a walk through an enormous ancient oil painting.

Aside from the tranquil blue surroundings, Chefchaouen also provides relief from the rest of Morocco’s tourist crowds.  There are of course sections of the medina, mainly around the Uta el-Hammam square that have the inevitable tourist offerings – pottery, cloth and spices, and ‘authentic tagine dishes’ served with fries and a coke. However there is still a lot of the old town that adheres to the simpler ways of life.  Men carrying carts of provisions through narrow alleyways, women washing clothes by hand in the stream, and best of all, fresh bread being baked in wood fired ovens all over the medina.

Most locals still dress traditionally, and Berber women with tribal facial tattoos can be seen going about their day with their children. The call to prayer echoes over the rooftops and mixed conversations in Spanish and Arabic are common. Food is simple and humble – fresh locally made goats cheese, olives, flat bread and lamb. With no cars to pollute the surroundings, the inside of the medina is melodic and fragrant. Distant conversations, birds, the sounds of daily life are all accompanied by the smells of food cooking, and of course, the signature smell of Chefchaouen – cannabis. The greater region of Chefchaouen is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco, so many travellers are there to pass their time smoking in cafes and people watching.

I spent Christmas in Chefchaouen that year, and enjoyed the simplest of pleasures from one day to the next. Tables laden with delicious hand made food. Settling into big comfy armchairs with a book by an open fire. Strolling around the medina, stopping for mint tea. Spending an hour in the hammam each day, getting rubbed and scrubbed from head to toe, then emerging squeaky and beaming. Not the Morocco you might expect, but certainly a place to add to your wishlist.

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Sydney, Australia. Bathed in joy.

‘I’d give you all of Sydney Harbour, all that land, all that water, for that one sweet promenade. I’d give you all of Sydney Harbour, all that land, and all that water, for that one sweet promenade.’ Words by Paul Kelly.  ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’ – Paul Kelly.  

I decided to start my year off by getting inspired, so I headed to Sydney for some much needed alone time. To soak up some sunshine, art and culture, in my favourite city by the sea. If you haven’t been it is hard to describe the feeling of being by (or on) the harbour on a warm Australian summer’s day.

There are a million travel stories that have already been written about Sydney, but sometimes you really only need to feel the inspiration. To tell others you were inspired, without lengthy diatribes about how and why and long existential dissections that suck all of the simple love out of the experience you had.

So I will not contribute one more, but will  let my pictures tell the story and hope that you too will be bathed in joy.

Sydney, Australia.  January 2013.

 

ALL IMAGES © MELINDA BARLOW

In a trance of U-Bahn love

This is my Berlin. This is the Berlin in my mind as I rocket around on the U-bahn. Three of my fave things of 2012 – Berlin, trance and the glorious works of art that are the U-bahn stations. This video makes me want to weep at the thought of leaving Berlin.

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Berlin Calling

“And we build up castles, in the sky and in the sand.  Design our own world, ain’t nobody understand.  I found myself alive, in the palm of your hand. As long as we are flying, this world ain’t got no end”.  Words by Fritz Kalkbrenner.  ‘Sky and Sand’ – Paul Kalkbrenner.

 IMAGE © MELINDA BARLOW
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Short story. ‘Call To Prayer’

Excerpt from short story. ‘Call To Prayer’.  As yet unpublished.

“The mosque remained inert, in all its shades of blue, and was immaculate as its interior glowed with the light of a thousand bulbs.  A quiet delicate sequence began inside.  Kneeling, rising, men laid prostrate, hands clasped, eyes closed, murmurs, whispers.  The women came too.  The hems of black sweeping across the marble outside like moth wings.  Shoes lined up at the entrance.  The security guard strolls and paces at the front.  I wait for the prayer time to end, and for the tourists to be allowed back inside.  Really that’s all I am – a tourist.  I have no allegiance to Allah, no faith, no sense of an almighty.  I just have a…

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Lá Fhéile Pádraig or Happy St Pat’s

“Work is the curse of the drinking classes”.  Words by Oscar Wilde


This time last year I was shivering on O’Connell street in Dublin, watching the St Patrick’s Day Parade. A year later I’m in the desert in the middle of Australia, with not a giant balloon animal or a wacky green hat in sight. However I’ve received a few text messages from the family, and will be sure to be at the only Irish pub in town tonight, squeezed into a corner, balancing a pint, and undoubtedly having sweaty backpackers rubbing up against me – with or without intent.

My mum and most of her family were born in Ireland so today is a great day for all of us, for no reason other than the celebration of all things Irish. It’s funny to me though that the majority of revelers know nothing of what they are celebrating, as the myth and legend of St Patrick and why the day exists, seem superfluous in the face of the opportunity for drinking and merriment, regardless of rhyme or reason. Guinness sells over 5 million pints a day, worldwide, in a normal week, yet St Pat’s Day sees that more than double to 13 million pints. On a single day!

All for a saint who supposedly got rid of snakes that were never there, and who was not Irish. A welshman who came to Ireland as a slave then flitted between religions to do nothing specific that anyone seems to have recorded, and at some point became a saint for a variety of non specific reasons. Seriously, the Irish will do anything for a drink.

So my commitment to the greater good for today is my own precious recipe for Irish Stew that I have been perfecting since i first learned how to buy lamb.  This is the simple version, but add what you like to make it your own. Enjoy the craic and a Happy St P’s to all.

My Irish Stew

Get enough good quality diced lamb, for the amount of people you want to feed, from the butcher (not the supermarket – believe me it’s better). Put half a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper in a freezer bag or a plastic tub with a lid and shake around. Add the diced lamb and shake around some more till all the lamb is coated in the flour mixture.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pot and drizzle some olive oil in too. Add the lamb and a little extra of the flour to the pan and fry gently till the outsides are brown with some golden crispy bits on the corners. Add 1 brown onion chopped in big chunks, and a chopped celery stick, and fry some more. Add a handful of fresh chopped thyme. Add potatoes cut into big chunks – halves or quarters whichever you prefer. Add carrots also chopped into big chunks. Don’t worry about peeling anything.

Add 1 cup of beef stock, and 1 can of Guinness or heavy beer. Add a splash of red wine if you have some nearby, or some sherry, or both, and some more salt and pepper. Stir the whole lot around and bring to the boil. Once boiled, stir again, then turn down to simmer and put the lid on. Check it every 15 minutes or so, stir it more, taste it and add more of whatever you think – salt, pepper, liquid of your choosing, or flour to thicken. Stew is ready when the vegies are soft and the lamb is falling apart in your mouth. The secret is low heat and lots of seasoning.

SERVE WITH MASH.  THERE ARE NO ALTERNATIVES.

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