Our Thessaloniki home for the next 4 nights.

Hallelujah, we are back in Greece, more specifically, my favorite city, Thessaloniki! The most wonderful part of this trip is that in only a few hours this sweet apartment will include an Alisa from Malaysia AND a Janna from London. HOW COOL IS THAT!

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Having fun in Carcassonne!

Carcassonne has been amazing so far. The city has so much to do and see; there’s a castle on top of the hill, a fresh food market in the city square (40 meters from our apartment) 3 times a week selling great local goodies and there’s the Canal du Midi for boating, picnicking and general relaxation.

 

Mom’s not a big fan of “le selfie”.

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This couple dressed up for the occasion. (The “knight” is on the bridge).

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View from inside the medieval castle.

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Champagne? Why not!

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Ok, I’m not going to lie, there has been SOME drinking going on. This is “le liter of lunch wine”.

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The weather has been unseasonably windy and chilly.

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L’Oeil le resto cooks all their meat and potatoes on a wood burning oven in the center of the open concept restaurant. 

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Smart.

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Yes, that is 1.5 kilograms of big steak, small steak, tenderloin, sausage and duck breast…the baked potato is swimming in fresh cream and chives.

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I was the only one to finish my plate. The big burly women who worked there were very impressed.

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And the highlight of 2016, the lunch boat ride on the Canal du Midi!

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We drank local Rose, ate yummy food and enjoyed the scenery.

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WHAT!!!!!! I got to drive the boat!!! I jokingly asked if I could drive and next thing you know I was in control of the wheel. Apparently I did a fine job, the captain let me steer for over 10 minutes while he sipped his coffee and told me stories about the surrounding area. I have a new calling, I’m becoming a boat captain (just as long as it doesn’t go faster than 6 kilometers an hour)!   

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Saturday market. As today is our last full day in Carcassonne we wanted to celebrate by eating all the local produce available at the market. Steak tartare, cheeses, salads, asparagus, olives and macaron with fresh strawberries and cheese cake are on tonight’s menu.

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A few photos of Toulouse (sorry for the time stamps).

 

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Fantastic seafood dinner made with all the goodies we picked up at the Victor Hugo market.

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MY MOM!!! The funniest storyteller in the world…especially after a few wines.

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Yakitori lunch next door.

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Huge rodeo downtown. All the French people were line dancing in the rain.

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Snacks while we wait for the rain to stop.

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Sunday at Victor Hugo market.

Sunday in Toulouse, everyone is at the market drinking wine, slurping on fresh oysters and chomping on great breads topped with meats and cheese.

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Yes, France!

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Obviously we bought one of each at this stall.

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A quick 7.5 hour train ride to Toulouse.

Mom was very excited as it was her first time on a train…well, except for all those other times she’s been on a train.

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Eddie?

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Pre-train croissants.

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Gare Austerlitz.

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Our cool apartment in central Toulouse.

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Bachelor party.

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I wanted to talk shop about marriage.

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My lovely drinking buddies.

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Yummmmmmmy pineapple Gojju with pan fried chicken breast.

The recipe for Pineapple Gojju worked really well and you don’t need to cook it for hours and hours to develop favor. I didn’t know what urad dal was so I just used regular brown lentils instead. Also, I’m 100% sure I wouldn’t be able to get jaggery in Bulgaria so I used white sugar.

For the chicken thighs: I marinated 2 large thighs in hot Madras, smoked paprika, lemon juice and salt for an hour then pan fried them in oil in a very hot pan. Let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.  Serve with cilantro and green onions or leeks.

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Pork Al Pastor Tacos.

I used frozen, store bought, Russian pancakes instead of making tortillas by hand…I know, I’m a terrible person! The pancakes were fantastic, not too sweet and had a great fluffy consistency.

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Fried mushrooms, allium ursinum (wild garlic) and kale with pork meatballs and simple tomato sauce.

WHAT? Kale in Bulgaria??? This is the first time in over 3 years I’ve seen it in a store! Last time we were in Sofia we stopped at a super fancy new grocery store and picked up a few un-Bulgairan items. I’m not going to lie, kale isn’t really that crazy delicious, I’d rather eat a whole leg of prosciutto to myself but I was happy to bring it home and prepare it as best as I know how.

 

Allium ursinum on the other hand, I go super crazy for the stuff! I was first introduced to it 2 years ago at our friend Hussein’s “restaurant” (more like a shack made out of plywood, old carpets and dirt) while drinking Bulgarian moonshine Rakia and dancing with random gypsies…you know, a usual Tuesday night. Here they dip it in a slightly dirty bowl of salt and eat it with shots of hard liquor and Ayran (a watered down sour yogurt drink kind of like buttermilk).  I’m 90% sure I’m allergic to the wild garlic as every time I eat it I lose sensation of my tongue for a week and have down-in-the-gut, no matter how many times I brush, floss or Scope my mouth, dragon-slaying, bad breath. I don’t care, for the one month it is available here I eat as much of it as I can and stuffer the consequences with a huge, happy (and stinky) smile on my face.

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White fish soup with spinach, hoisin mushrooms, carrots and leeks from my balcony, homemade rice cakes and mushroom broth.

Omit the rice cakes and this soup is very simple to make. Warm up mushrooms in hoisin sauce, lightly grill a piece of white fish (this was frozen hake), add hot mushroom broth, spinach and carrots and you are done. The rice cake recipe needs to be refined. It’s just rice flour, an egg, Asian dried shrimp seasoning (or just salt will do) and water. I think next time I make them I will heat the water almost to a boiling point so that when I mix the dough it gets more gluttonous and stretchy. I’ll also try cutting them thinner as they take much longer to cook than expected.   

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Yoga on a pirate ship.

Spring is here and the sun rises much earlier (around 6 am) which is wonderful but that also means my stupid cat starts meowing and dancing on my head so I wake up and play with her. Some mornings I wear earplugs and eye covers but she sits on my chest and paws at the eye cover, snapping it back in my face over and over (while meowing progressively louder). Who raised this monster!?! Why do I live in a loft? Why don’t we have a room with a door that locks? Why can’t she be like the other cat?

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Anyways! This morning I got this super crazy idea to actually wake up, put some clothes on and do yoga on the beach. Yoga? Who am I? I usually go to the beach and drink morning beers.

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Not one person on the beach, I got the whole pirate ship to myself! I obviously don’t have a yoga mat so my exercises were done directly on the wet, splintery wooden planks, paying extra attention not to fall through the broken and missing ones.

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Overall it wasn’t so bad, I MIGHT try this again one day. P.S. I came home a couple hours later and Matt and both cats were all cuddled together snoring loudly, no one noticed I left. 

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A few snacks.

Tahini sauce and eggplant dip.

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Lamb and pork souvlaki.

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Potato stuffed Armenian bread.

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We had to…

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Terrible dogs but the nachos were unique to this Ikea and tasted yummy.

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Ikea sunset.

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Over the Green Line, Turkish Cyprus.

Take a selfie in front of passport control then continue on into Turkey!  Warning, this side of the line suffers from extreme poverty. 

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Playing construction materials is always fun!

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Just in case.

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Danger ous.

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I still can’t get over how odd the separation is.

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Turkish workshops and food market, Cyprus.

Once again the Turks have not let us down, their hospitality and warmth is unparalleled to any other humans we have met along the way. While touring the Turkish side of Nicosia we veered off the touristy path and stumbled upon a series of workshops ranging from cabinet makers to vintage bike restorers. Everyone was beyond welcoming (didn’t matter if they spoke English or not) and let us explore their shops.       

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