Escape to Europe

Blogged by Anne

While Dave was getting some work done in Joburg, I snuck away to Europe thanks to some accumulated air miles. The main purpose of this trip was to spend some time with friends that I haven’t seen enough of lately, but there was also a bit of tourism thrown in. Massive thanks to Zara & Bruce, Warren & Eddie, Chris & Tor, Mac & Tam and Ronel & Nick for all the free accommodation.

Dallying in Devon

First stop was Exeter, a small city in Devon in the south west of England. The city itself is quite interesting, with a cathedral and a number of other interesting historical buildings including remnants of the old Roman wall. Exeter is on the banks of the river Ex and there is a great running/cycling path which runs all the way from the city’s waterfront area to Exmouth about 10km away. The countryside is very typically English, with rolling green hills and winding roads. We also visited the beach at Budleigh which was my first ever experience of the British beach. The weather was unusually sunny and the locals were taking full advantage. I was particularly amused by the British love of old fashioned bathing houses which seem to be individually owned and all kitted out for a day at the beach. The beach itself is really interesting from geological perspective – it forms part of the Jurassic coast Wold Heritage site and the beach is made of pebbles which eroded away from the impressive cliffs.

Exeter cathedral
From the inside
Bruce playing with Lego (the church is building a scale model out of Lego to raise funds)
The river Ex
Budleigh beach
Your beach hut isn’t even on the beach people!

Overindulging in Alba

Next up was Alba, a small town in Italy, in the Piemonte region about and hour south of Torino (Turin). it is most famous for being the home of Nutella and although you can’t visit the factory, you can walk past and smell the delicious smells (they get a bit sickening 4km into a run…). Ronel and I were mainly there to explore the nearby wine regions of Barolo and Barbaresco, famous for their heavy red wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. As long as you pre-book, many of the estates in the area offer intimate tours and generous tastings for a small fee which is waived if you buy wine. We did several really interesting tours and tastings ranging from big commercial producers to small boutique ones. The region is also renowned for food and (amongst other great places) we visited the three Michelin star Piazza Duomo ( in the centre of Alba which was recently named number 17 in the world.

The estates we tried:

Borgogno – Fairly commercial but old estate in the heart of Barolo

E Pira & Figli – Small, more modern estate in Barolo

Marchesi di Gresy – Large Barbaresco estate with amazing setting


And some other great restaurants:

Rabaya – views over the Barbaresco vineyards

Osteria d’ella Arco – slow food in Alba

La Cantinetta in Barolo – casual and delicious

Lunch at Rabaya
Piazza Duomo looks pretty unassuming from the outside (it’s on the first floor) 
From the inside
Michelin starred tacos
More Piazza Duomo beauty
Cellar tours

A weekend in Madrid

After a couple of days in London, I was off to Madrid. My first visit to Madrid was halfway through a hellish 72 hour journey home from Europe thanks to snow storms so it was great to go back for a proper visit. The city is a bit like Joburg in that it is a commercial city rather than being very tourist focused and it has a great deal of energy. There is no shortage of good food, including some lively food and drink markets which are worth a visit (try Mercado de San Miguel and Mercado San Anton). The nightlife is good fun, although no one would dream of going out for a drink before midnight which takes some getting used to! Many of the bars offer free bar snacks – with a place called Sidreria el Tigre offering a massive plate of carb-based goodness. if I was a student in Madrid, I would eat all my meals there…

Welcome to Madrid
Pre-drinks drinks
Free bar snacks
Market drinks
Main square

Warren and Eddie also took me on a day trip to Segovia which is famous for its incredible Roman aqueduct and its suckling pigs which are roasted and cut up using a traditional method involving a plate. It is a fairytale hilltop town and well worth a day trip. The aqueduct was built in the 1st century AD and although it has been repaired a few times, it is amazingly well preserved. It has functioned for most of its life and still carries the towns drinking water today.

Roman engineering
Arches from below
Poor little piglet

Eating all the things in London

Apart from catching up with old friends and popping to Oxford to meet the new addition to the Hill family, my London visit consisted almost entirely of eating. So here is a list of great food options to try when you’re next in town.

Incredible one Michelin star Indian place in Mayfair with a ridiclously reasonable lunch time special

Awesome little French brasserie in Battersea

Delicious sushi and yakitori in Wimbledon

Breakfast with some serious views in the City

Really good Japanese / Brazilian / Peruvian with the same fantastic views

Tasty dim sum in Soho (don’t miss the edamame and truffle)

Fantastic beer garden near Clapham Junction

Gymkhana lunch
Duck and waffle
View from Duck and Waffle
Welcome to the world Benjamin Hill


Next stop: Mozambique

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