DID SHE GET ON THE PLANE? (A Ross and Rachel Situation*)

Rossie (see asterisk, bottom) and I have been friends for almost exactly five years now. Evidently a supreme being felt that this half-decade-versary was the time for us to be having exactly the same experience, at exactly the same time, a mere 1,000 kilometres away from each other (and each totally none the wiser). I will start with my morning (definitely the more embarrassing of the two). As you know (and if you don’t – why not? – scroll down and read my ruddy last post (I hope you’re feeling suitably chastised)) on my last night in Nice I enjoyed a classic Salade Niçoise et un verre de vin rosé. What you don’t know as of yet is that I had been attempting to complete four nights of absolute sobriety in Nice, and also that the vin rosé was just the first drink of the evening. Following dinner I moved onto the dingy Irish pub down the road (only because I wanted to watch an England World Cup Qualifier (I promise I’m usually much more of a classy bird)), and consumed two extortionately priced and (for British standards) extortionately alcoholic half pints of La Chouffe (which happens to be the very first drink I had when I arrived in Ghent at the very start of my trip (no wonder it got off to such a good start)). With my new friends in toe, and England 4-0 up, when the match was over we headed to a nearby cocktail bar to celebrate. Here I had a mojito. And that is all I drank. Period (said in an annoying American accent). However. The Salade Niçoise (as delicious as it was) was not overly substantial (no new potatoes in sight (was it even an authentic Niçoise?)), and I had had a few days off the old travellers’ Achilles heel – alcohol errrday. This all conspired against me the next morning to equal an horrifically hungover Rachel whose alarm went off at 6.45 am and who had to get an EIGHT HOUR coach to Lyon (and I suffer from travel sickness at the best of times).

The first sign that this was more than just a sore head was when I arrived at the airport (from where I was catching my coach). I needed something (anything) so bought a cappuccino (with sugar (and I never have sugar in my coffee)) whose froth made me feel positively queasy. I love a cappuccino and I love a cappuccino’s froth: something funky was going on. But I kept my composure. I boarded the coach, it got on the road, and I got started on brekkie: natural yoghurt with blueberry compote and whole blueberries. It was rather good! I thought this had turned things around for me (blueberries are a superfood afterall). Fast forward thirty minutes and things had taken a severe turn for the worse. I was feeling very travel sick. Like, EXTREMELY nauseous. I put my earphones in for some distraction. I managed about twenty minutes of Ed Sheeran’s ÷ before I had a rush of OH MY GOD I AM ACTUALLY GOING TO BE FULLY SICK RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. This was not overly desirable as I was one hour in to an eight-hour bus ride, with plenty of passengers surrounding me that would not, I believe, take kindly to being vomited all over. I had to act quickly. I ripped out my headphones (sorry Ed), undid my seatbelt (yes I do wear my seatbelt) and made a dash for the onboard toilet. Luckily it was vacant (the potential outcome of this story had the toilet been engaged is truly not worth thinking about). I got in, I shut the door and I was violently sick. EVERYWHERE. And it was full of half-chewed blueberries and compote. It was like a live-action Jackson Pollock creation in the confines of the FlixBus WC. And when I say it went everywhere I’m not exaggerating. Some of it went in the toilet, no problem, but cleaning up the 40% that was splattered all over the seat, walls and floor was not the most enjoyable activity I’ve partaken in. (Especially on a hangover.) (Sorry for the detail (just feel glad you didn’t have to experience it).)

Back in my designated seat, feeling rather delicate but definitely better than before, I got back to my most overplayed album of all time. I was going for the eyes closed, music load, breaths deep strategy to survive the rest of the journey. And then my phone pinged. Rossie had been having a somewhat below par morning as well. Turns out this sickness bug I had picked up had made its way over to the UK. (At least we were both suffering I guess – we could share stories later.) Rossie’s sickness, however, was a bit more unrelenting than mine (although ferocious, my episode in the toilet was, thankfully, the extent of my indisposition). Her’s was almost debilitating and, after hours of trying to help it subside, there was a big question mark as to whether her flight to Lyon booked for later that day would be caught. (I tried to ease the situation by regailing her with the story of my similar ailment – gory details and all – but I’m not sure whether this helped or made things a lot, lot worse.) We were in no man’s land for a period before I received the confirmation that Rossie would (extremely regrettably) not make it over for our long weekend in Lyon. Obviously I was super bummed, but in a seriously groggy state myself I could understand the lack of will to get on an airplane, on your own, when feeling utterly shoddy. I was sad, but I got it. (We had booked an Airbnb so I had a private apartment and a DOUBLE FRIGGIN’ BED all to myself to look forward to!) Some more time passed (it’s hard to remember exact timings as I was still severely hanging) when my phone pinged again. (I thought maybe it was Ed, just checking in.) It was Rossie. The message read as follows (with no punctuation, emojis or kisses (so I knew this was serious)): I’m gonna try again. What the…?!? Next thing I know – she’s through bloody security and about to board the plane!!! And in four hours time I was meeting her from the airport shuttle in Lyon to begin our long weekend away. Now that’s what I call girl power. 💪🏻❤️👯

Now onto the city in hand: Lyon. Wonderful. Just wonderful. It reminded me of Britain a bit (in a good way) and I can definitely imagine myself living there. (I am seriously considering moving to France for a year (while I still can (thanks Boris)) and Lyon is a serious contender on the location front.) The city is cool, quirky and creative, and not really very touristy which, after four months of Tourists R Us, was a big plus. I decided to walk the forty minute stretch from the bus station to the Airbnb (due to the still very prominent hangover), which did me the world of good (fresh air plus a little exercise (I can call it exercise when there is an 18 kg backpack involved) was just what the doctor ordered after the longest eight hour bus ride), that is until I reached the street on which the apartment was located and the heavens opened like a shark’s mouth at the faintest hint of blood. Once more in the run up to welcoming a guest from home I was thoroughly drenched and a quivering, sodden mess. Marvellous. It didn’t help that I also couldn’t actually find the entrance to the apartment for a good five to ten minutes, so I was now a cold, wet, frustrated and still marginally hungover backpacking embarrassment. (The cold that ensued from this less than ideal quarter of an hour is still not fully gone now (three weeks later) (please send lots of healthy thoughts (and a stash of lemon and honey strepsils)).) 

I eventually managed to locate the apartment, find the keys, make it up the flight of stairs and unlock our pad for the next three nights. And what a lovely little home it was. The biggest studio I have ever seen, there was a huge double bed, huge flat screen TV (not that we even tried to turn it on (too much gossiping to do)), kitchen area, breakfast bar situation (love a breakfast bar situation) and loadsa loadsa floor space so we weren’t cramped at all. Too good to be true? Well, yes, there was a little hitch. A little hitch which came in the form of the flush for the toilet. I went to the toilet before Rossie arrived and struggled so much to even work out where the flush was that I had to contact our Airbnb host with the humiliating question: how do you flush the toilet? (I was praying it wasn’t something obvious that would make me look like a total wally.) The reply came: Sorry I forgot to tell you! [Not the most reassuring first line of the answer to that specific question.] You have to press the bottom several times 🙂 [Not quite sure a smiley is appropriate here.] don t worry press lot. First thought: I bloody well hope she means the bottom of the toilet as opposed to the bottom of the user. On closer inspection I think she actually meant ‘button’, but it was oddly enough situated on the bottom section of the toilet, so who knows what she was actually referring to. Anyway, I pressed away. A lot. I actually counted 60 presses before the flush choked into action. When Rossie arrived I got her to try, to see if it was just me doing it wrong, but she struggled too. I went with the index finger and her approach was the thumb. We were both getting sore. One time I got to two-hundred presses and still no joy; Rossie had to begrudgingly take over. And then we figured out the trick: it was pure speed. That was all the was too it. Hammer away at it with enough momentum and you could get it going in fifteen pushes, maximum. Sometimes – if you were really lucky – it even went on the first press (we both achieved that once and couldn’t have been more thrilled for ourselves and each other). I couldn’t work out whether this bizarre, enforced flushing ritual felt more like pleasuring or resuscitating the lavatory, but, in any case, neither is best carried out in the bathroom, especially when there is a fresh whiff of excreta in the air.

I realise I have digressed – again – to toilet-related nightmares. I do apologise. On a more savoury note, we had a thoroughly great time exploring the city and catching up over delicious food, cocktails and wine, making a name for ourselves throughout the entire city as Those Bloody British Selfie Stick Wankers (the day I can successfully take a selfie without the stick ruining the shot will be a very proud day indeed). Other than visiting a beautiful basilica (the most beautiful basilica I have ever visited) we didn’t really do that much, which is often when you have some of the most precious moments while travelling. And Lyon has definitely been a highlight. Unfortunately she did get on the plane home at the end of our stay, so I was back on my own once more (for two brief nights in Grenoble before guest number four came to join me in Marseille…).

*Similar in every detail, except: Ross was a girl (let’s call her Rossie); it was Rossie getting on the plane, not Rachel; the desired outcome was that Rossie did get on the plane. (Glad that’s sorted. Now for all of you who don’t have a clue what I’m referencing: we are no longer F.R.I.E.N.D.S.)


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Nice is, well, really rather nice

Following a flying visit through Turin (Torino in Italian – how much nicer) (I wouldn’t recommend), I left Italy behind me (weep) and moved onto my next country of exploration: France. As I had been learning French for the previous forty days (I worked it out – forty exactly), I assumed conversing with the natives (just on the basics, of course) would be a bit of a breeze. It had taken me a couple of weeks in Italy to perfect asking for a table in a restaurant, so I figured that all the practise I’d had (with my iPad) in French would stand me in great stead for hitting the ground running en français. Wrong. Turns out as soon as I crossed the border I was suddenly fluent in Italian. It was like I was born bi-lingual! I was all “buongiorno”, “si”, “grazie mille”. They were my defaults over even bloody English! This would have been great had I still been in Italy… but trying to buy a bus ticket from the airport to the city centre in Nice with my newly-contracted Italian pharyngitis was, quite frankly, highly embarrassing. (Disembarking the bus at the other end was in fact even more embarrassing: timing the backpack donning to the exact moment the bus driver performed a sharp hit on the brakes led to a near-catastrophic backpack vs. Rachel situation, which, however embarrassing for moi, was, I’m sure, highly entertaining for all other passengers. I won the battle (with the help of a stocky Frenchman) through the skin of my teeth, stepped off the bus and walked gingerly to my hostel, praying that my string of embarrassing incidents wasn’t going to advance to three.)

Reaching the hostel with no additional mishaps – thank the lord – I checked in, dumped my now despised backpack (I had forgiven it for the Slovakian trip (literally (the scars are still quite shocking)) but the bus incident had triggered my negative thoughts regarding the backpack to resurface (and I know it’s not the backpack’s fault, but one can’t help but blame those closest to them)) and met the first of my five new roomies. Alex (pronounced ah-lex (with a brief but definite emphasis on the first syllable) was a Russian thirty-something male who spoke as much English as I do Russian, as much French as I do currently (although none of the same words), liked to sleep in nothing but his boxer shorts, and developed an excruciatingly irritating favourite sitting position of top-bunk-leg-overhang (and I was the lucky bugger who had to dodge his smelly feet if I wanted to use the bathroom). I wouldn’t say his presence made my skin crawl, but he definitely wasn’t husband material. The other lucky inhabitants of dorm 15 over the four-day duration of my stay featured two French Canadian students (great banter), a Spaniard now living in Dublin (who I would have bet good money on being an Irishman living in Malaga) called Jesus (even better banter*), a young British couple who joined me for the England v Malta World Cup Qualifier (great banter), a Hungarian Wizz Air cabin crew member who got hit on by the director of Cartier while buying a train ticket to Monte Carlo (great legs), and a South American whirlwind of a girl who – immediately on entering the dorm – took the piss out of Ah-lex for his ridiculously burnt schnozzle (clearly the best banter of them all).

With my newly ignited love of hiking in indecent heat through beautiful coastal scenery at its most passionate, I could not not seize the opportunity to do just that on my first full day in the city. On consulting with reception on the best route to take to hike to the beach at Eze (a village a little further east) I was met with (as opposed to the admiration and ‘you go girl’ spirit I was expecting) a bemused, dazed look, a gaping mouth and an unmistakable double take. “You want to HIKE there? In THIS heat?” [ARE YOU MAD?] (Subtext.) I did indeedy want to hike there (and probably was indeed a little bit mad). Anywho, off I trotted in my sportswear, backpack and cap (always) to embark on the coastal hike from Nice to Eze, of which I had no idea on distance, duration or possible deathly hazards. (Because clearly no one had ever contemplated let alone completed this hike in all of the Côte d’Azur.) But I was feeling optimistic. Six hours, twenty-four kilometres, three suncream reapplications, two dodgy-smelling toilets, a wrong turn through the most swanky of seaside estates, a sandy apple and a now-warm homemade houmous and avocado sandwich later, I reached Eze beach. Ha! Obviously first on the agenda was obtaining ice cream, so the extortionately priced double caramel magnum from the roadside shack went down a treat. Then it was to the beach! By now – around 5.30 pm – the heat was fading and the crowds were thinning, with just a handful of others enjoying the last of the afternoon sun. Once I had licked off all the chocolate and caramel from around my mouth I performed my now-perfected clothes-to-costume (bikini) manoeuvre, with no sight of (not even the flashest of flashes of) any private parts. The quick dip in the water was great – relaxing, refreshing, reinvigorating. The getting out of the sea was not. With a strong tide and a sharp, rocky sea bed, my chances of executing an eloquent exiting were slim at best. My strategy was slow and steady. Slow I mastered like an Olympic champion. Steady… not so much. As I approached roughly one-and-a-half metres away from the shore I took a very slow, very steady and very embarrassing tumble to the right. (Now just imagine how shallow the water is at this point.) And all of a sudden, I was sitting. Literally sitting. Sitting in about one foot of water, alone, in front of three old Frenchmen resting leisurely on the beach (I have no doubt that there was humour and pity in their eyes, behind their dark glasses), wondering how on earth I was going to get up, let alone with an eloquent execution (that was both me and the locals pondering this conundrum). So I continued with the slow and steady gameplan (I really couldn’t have achieved anything of speed even if had I wanted to) and – somehow – launched myself up from the floor (physically and symbolically), got to my feet and continued my slow, hesitant and painful journey to my towel and pile of clothes. Ouch. Having had such a physically exhausting day, followed by such a mentally exhausting five minutes, I lay back on my towel and fell into a blissful near-REM level snooze, in which I was able to forget the day’s most recent incident and instead bask in the achievements of my long coastal hike.

Along with exploring Nice itself (obviously) one can’t take a trip to the biscuit-named city without visiting it’s two exceedingly exclusive neighbours. The Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone of the French Riviera, if you will. First up was Edina (Monte Carlo / Monaco) (which I didn’t realise, until after my visit, is in fact a different country – not just a pretentious, self-obsessed French city as I had initially thought). I took a packed lunch (budget bitch) (fresh baguette, carrot sticks and, of course, hou-hou (houmous)) and ate it perched on a big concrete slab looking out over Hercules Port. Everything was absolutely fabulous until a rather rotund seagull took an interest in my picnic, clearly used to hoovering up all of the uneaten lunches of the super-skinny WAG-type inhabitants who, I judgingly assumed, spent their diamond-encrusted days wining (and evidently not dining) at one of the region’s many swanky bars and bistros. But me? Mais NON are you getting your grubby beak on my full-fat hou-hou (did he not get the memo on my feelings towards the king of all dips?). I successfully guarded and guzzled my lunch, and set off to explore the city state’s capital. It was like something out of a film. The main feature – Casino de Monte-Carlo – attracted a swarm of shameless tourists and millionaire wannabes, photographing, posing with and pouring over the array of seven-figure priced cars parked enticingly outside. I don’t really see the appeal of having your photo taken while standing next to another person’s car (and I do like cars), but it was a spectacle to watch none the less. However, my sneakers and cap weren’t exactly the most appropriate attire for such a wealthy environment, so after absorbing a little of the glitzy [definition: attractive in a showy and often superficial way] atmosphere I headed back to the station and back to more normal civilisation.

Next was the turn of Patsy (aka Cannes). A little less head-in-the-clouds that her best friend, but still housing a decent amount of decadence, it was much more up my street. And this time I dressed up for the occasion. In my ‘sophisticated’ dress (no denim shorts and stained tee), sandals (no Nike tick), handbag (no hiking backpack), made-up face (no spots or uneven skin tone) and NO CAP IN SIGHT: I was much more in keeping with my lovely surroundings. I window-shopped, wandered and whiled away the time (all the while paranoid of my scalp burning, my mascara running and tripping up in my non-supportive footwear). But I thoroughly enjoyed it. The shops were interesting without being intimidating, the people were well turned out without being total twats and there were food and drink options that wouldn’t break the bank (along with lots mixed in that most definitely would (one of the menus I perused charged €20 for a non-alcoholic cocktail…)). 

After a successful afternoon (pretending to be) living the high life in Cannes, I headed back to Nice to enjoy the final evening of my stay. I decided to treat myself to a night out of the hostel kitchen, instead sampling the city’s most famous dish (Salade Niçoise), the region’s most famous tipple (vin rosé) and the country’s most unauthentic nightlife (an Irish pub in which to watch England play footy). Every element was really rather nice.

*Jesus (Spanish name and pronunciation) works as a nurse in Dublin. (This is a true (slightly upsetting but equally hilarious) story.) He had just taken a patient up to be x-rayed on the top floor of the hospital. The next of kin asked the patient’s doctor where their relative was. The doctor looked down at the patient’s notes and confirmed: Jesus has taken [said patient] upstairs. (The initial reaction of the family member was not the most joyful.)

Every Blonde Needs A Brunette Best Friend

Prelude
Caren Kollis* has a secret talent. A fashion-forward superpower. She is, alongside many other charming and quirky qualities, a curious clothing chameleon. Somehow, without any observable algorithms in use before changing, she manages to dress herself in camouflage for the interior décor of that day’s outing, almost without fail. I don’t know how she does it, but she does. We went to the Milano Duomo and low and behold her navy, brown and cream dress flowed seemlessly with the ancient marble patterned flooring. We checked in to our Bolognian hostel to find the bunk bed privacy curtains were the very same grey and cream stripe of her newly purchased co-ord set, which she obviously happened to be wearing that day. We attended the opera in Verona and her floor length, feather embellished ball gown was an exact replica of that worn by the actress playing Tosca in the grand Arena di Verona. (Ok, last example may contain a touch of poetic license… (It’s always nice to provide examples in quantities divisible by three.))

Blog Post Proper
I had a window of approximately five hours in Milan between bidding farewell to my beloved Moo Moo and welcoming my next long-lost guest, Miss Kollis. I decided not to squeeze in a third trip to Budapest as I felt the timing might be a little tight. Instead I headed to the Airbnb which Caren and I had booked for our first two nights in the city. A teeny tiny studio flat on the eighth floor of a teetering tower block in the outskirts of the city; it was not the Regina Palace of Stresa but it was good enough for a couple of short arses to kip in for a couple of nights. Learning that the weather in the UK had been quite frightful, I was looking forward to welcoming my latest guest to the warm, sunny climes of the Italian capital. So, when said guest caught sight of me waiting for her at the metro station – looking as if I’d just taken a fully-dressed shower – she must have been a little bemused. The heavens decided to open 30 seconds after I left the apartment block, and instead of releasing a quick two-minute drizzle, the clouds decided to keep on whaling, with increasing fervour, for around 30 sodding minutes; drenching me completely and reversing the just-washed hairstyle I was previously sporting. (Maybe they just wanted to make Caren feel more at home. (With the weather that is, not the bad hair do.))

With all the best intentions of the first day of holiday, we booked Skip the Line tickets to the Duomo for the following day, setting our alarms for 8 am in order to get up, get ready and arrive at the ticket exchange office the moment it opened. At 11.30 am we were just finishing breakfast at the Airbnb and contemplating packing our bags for the day ahead. We arrived at the ticket office way ahead of schedule (if you use Hong Kong time), and did, literally, skip the whole flipping queue. It was bloody fantastic! We were escorted by our own guard through an alternative entryway, waving like the queen at the long line of tourists melting in the heat (the weather was now back to normal) waiting to enter the Duomo the conventional way (pity). The inside of the cathedral was big and grand and beautiful (and of course in sync with Miss Kollis’ OOTD). With such a tiring morning under our belts we needed to refuel and found THE MOST AMAZING BURGER PLACE EVER just a few streets behind the Duomo, with prices that were surprisingly budget friendly (especially for me as I didn’t pay a thing!!!) (love you long time Caren). Quinoa & vegetable burger + prosecco for me; salmon & avocado burger + aperol spritz for her. We knew this was going to be a good week.

Following the afternoon’s low-key activities of exploring the roof – roof ! – of the Duomo and discovering the best – BEST – gelateria on the whole of planet Earth (HEAVENLY liquid chocolate-filled cone (your choice of white, milk or dark (for me: dark)); DIVINE scoop of 80% cocoa dark chocolate gelato; SCRUMDIDDLYUMPTIOUS scoop of the creamiest, nuttiest, most indulgent pistachio gelato** I am yet to encounter (and I have met a fair few) with the FANDABBYDOZICAL addition of whole roasted pistachios; all topped with a circular wafer to crown the masterpiece with the halo it rightly deserved) we headed back to the penthouse to watch Midnight in Paris (thumbs up from me (Caren started snoring halfway through so I wouldn’t trust her verdict whatever it may be)) before getting a good night’s sleep ahead of travelling to Bologna in the morning.

Bologna was an interesting experience. Ninety percent of the city’s shops and restaurants were “closed for summer” (eh?) so we had to do a bit of detective work to seek out the open gems. Spoiler alert: we are great detectives. First for the hostel. Once we had found it (after standing directly opposite it for around ten minutes wondering where the holy moly it was) we were thrilled to discover it was one of the best hostels (like, ever). In the reception area there sat (permenantly) a giant penguin teddy (in penguin scale probably three-times life size) which pretty much secured the hostel’s ranking in my personal hall of fame. Then there was the loose leaf tea selection. Approximately sixteen varieties of floral / herbal / medicinal blends. All. For. Free. 😱. And then there were the dorm rooms. Humongous handmade boxpark-esque bunk bed set up with the most fashionable privacy curtains (remember – the perfectly matched grey and cream stripe). We were given the two bunks at the furthest corner of the room, allowing us space to be messy with our luggage, change in (semi) privacy and, most importantly, conduct a mini indoor workout using the wall as our resistance and water bottles as our weights. (Lol. What a couple of tossers.)

Our first day here we dubbed ‘alcohol-free Monday’. Well. That lasted about three hours. Walking back from our initial sortie into town we passed through a cool graffiti-laden street with a collection of street-food-type vans posing as cocktail bars, each with outdoor seating, fairy lights and hip-looking bartenders (not a beard-free chin in sight) inticing us with their toxic, herbalacious mixology. We looked at each other and we knew: ‘alcohol-free Monday’ was totally doomed. (What had we been thinking?) After dinner at the hostel (à la Rachelle 😉), a couple of beers and a rounding up of a posy of multi-cultural mates, we headed out to our recent hipster find (and were not smug about this excellent location scouting in the slightest). An evening of delicious twists on the popular classics ensued: rosemary-infused G&T’s, passionfruit-spiked mojitos and a supremely floral lavender rendition of the mai tai (the latter was a positively abominable concoction but – somehow – Caren enjoyed it). The following day was, without our consultation, alcohol-free Tuesday (due to the bloody horrific hangovers).

Next stop was Verona, home to a mammoth opera-focussed amphitheatre, all things Romeo & Juliet and our eccentric Airbnb host Catia (crazy cat lady is definitely unfair, but gives you the vague gist). Her first welcome was via the intercom to the main gate: “Caaarun?”, she hollered from the other end of the line, buzzing us in. We climbed the white marbled staircase (couldn’t have dreamed of a better first impression) and met our wide-eyed, charming and hospitable host. Her English was the perfect combination of Google Translate, demonstrative facial expressions and exuberant hand gestures, which made her even more adorable. (Teaching her how to pronounce ‘corkscrew’ was my personal highlight of our short-lived but meaningful relationship.) Verona was the city in which Caren and I spent the longest period – a whole three nights – so we were able to enjoy the city while also devoting a full day to topping up our tans, the amalgamation of which equalled a very happy travel buddy. (Albeit a couple of hitches: our pool day involved a leisure centre with the essential requirement of a swimming cap to gain rightful entry into the pool (we were without); the second half of Caren’s already disappointing smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich got attacked by a swarm of ants (chucked straight in the bin); Caren’s mini portion of farro salad from the supermarket deli counter (of which I had a pre-packaged full portion (deli-cious)) was most definitely off to the point of tasting fizzy (after thoughtful consideration chucked in the bin); and Caren made a less than pleasing choice on the cheer-up-have-an-ice-cream front (Magnum double raspberry – not to her liking in the slightest) (should’ve been chucked in the bin), but she was encouraged with the day’s impact on the progression of her tan.)

Along with the strenuous sunbathing and city strolling, our three days in Verona featured a hefty portion of eating (no surprises there). And it was all freakin’ fantastic. (Bar Caren’s aforementioned unfortunate food day at the pool.) Thanks to some extensive culinary research (I just can’t help myself) we ate at some truly delicious little finds. We frequented a tiny family-owned restaurant specialising in parmigiana (the best we’d ever tasted), cured meats (not to my pesky palate, but ideal for that of my ten-year-long-suffering pescetarien turned biggest meat eater in the West Midlands companion) and (in true Italian style) fresh pasta – what else?! (no, not pizza – we’re not in Naples anymore, darling) – on our first night in town. Had you asked me before my visit to Parma a Tavola if a great big hunk of parmigiana would serve well as an antipasti you may have been in receipt of one of my ‘is that a serious question, you barbaric fool?’ looks (regrettably a semi-frequent expression of mine). But this parmigiana was SOMETHING ELSE. And the wine… Don’t get me started on the wine! One of the cheapest glasses of red going (obvi babe; I’m travelling) was a crystal boule of delicious liquid red velvet yummyness, which complemented the parmigiana, the pasta, and even the ruddy walls simply superbly. (After the second glass even the prosciutto tasted rather nice.) The pasta (duo de ravioli) was, of course, buonissimo, and I went home a merry (mood) merry (state) girl. Ending our Veronese jaunt in a highly acclaimed fish and seafood restaurant was an equally excellent decision (thanks a mil’, Lonely Planet). To start we shared red snapper tartare – surprisingly sensational, then I devoured a sweet (😉) sweet pea soup with the most delectable scallops this seafood-loving cake hole has ever demolished. The evening was a fully-fledged fish-filled fea-esta.

Back in the capital for our final night (Miss Collis flew home from Milan at an unearthly hour the next morning) we of course used our last few hours effectively; spending the majority of the time sitting outside Cioccolati Italiana – revisiting our favourite gelateria and reliving our out-of-this-world, orgasmic, omnipotent, (pistachio-based) ice-cold taste sensation. (Karen moaned at me for being a boring bitch, flavour choice wise, so this time I substituted the divine 80% cocoa dark chocolate for a divine salted caramel (all other variables exactly the same – I’m not a total maverick) and it was just as orgasmic – what a relief.)

The hours that followed (in post-pistachio bliss) involved reminiscing about the past eight days’ LOLs, the comically-timed outfits, and, of course, the indecent amount of pistachio gelato which had been consumed. And you know what? We didn’t regret one mouthful.

*Name changed to protect identity.

**Potential blog post title which just missed the cut: ‘If Pistachio’s Not Your Favourite Flavour You Can’t Sit With Us’.