In the final part of our four seasons in Slovenia series, we meet the orange winemakers of the Goriška region, and discover why autumn is one of the best times to visit the country. Eleanor Aldridge went to find out more.

Autumn is a beautiful time to visit the far west of Slovenia. The leaves of the Malvazija, Jakot and Rebula vines are flecked with gold, amber and pink. Light breezes rustle the olive and permission bushes, and pigs fattening for this year’s pršut, or prosciutto, snuffle obliviously in the gentle sunshine. The odd hiker traversing the Alpe Adria Trail and tractors trundling in with the harvest are the only interruptions.

Here, the Slovenian region of Goriška merges seamlessly into Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia; and surveying the rolling hills and scattering of red-roofed farmhouses, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were across the border. This part of Slovenia has a character quite different to the misty mountains around Lake Bled and the busy towns of the Adriatic coast. The country might be small, but it packs a lot into twenty thousand square kilometres.

Yet there’s more than just natural beauty here. Goriška is home to some of Europe’s most exciting winemakers – known for their natural orange wines – and thanks to a growing number of B&Bs and wine routes, this is the perfect time to discover them. 

Gorska Brda, Wine Country, Slovenia, Europenejcbole via Compfight cc


The natural winemaking renaissance began in the 1990s. A group of Slovenian farmers decided to return to traditional methods, growing their grapes organically and producing macerated white wines, commonly known as orange wines in the UK and USA.

These wines are made from white grapes but vinified like red wines. The juice is left to macerate on the skins for up to a month – imparting colour, flavour and tannins – rather than being pressed straight off. The result is an array of orange- to honey-coloured wines that exhibit a unique set of spicy, bitter and floral notes.

Orange wines are likely to be “the most unusual wines you ever taste” according to natural wine authority, Isabel Legeron, and they’re coveted from London to Tokyo.

Movia wine shop, Ljubljana, Slovenia, Europe


The ideal place to start a voyage of discovery is Ajdovščina. (Try pronouncing it like “out of China”.) Only an hour’s drive from Ljubljana at the heart of the Vipava Valley, this pretty town of just over 6000 inhabitants is built on Roman foundations. Its narrow streets are interesting to wander and provide shelter from the valley’s famous wind, the burja, which is starting to flex its icy muscles at this time of year.

In the town centre, tasting room and boutique Faladur provides a great introduction to Vipava Valley wine and gastronomy. They stock bottles from a host of local winemakers and offer food pairings that give a sense of the proximity to Italy – think crispy fried polenta and quail’s egg paired with a smooth Barbera, or home-made herb ricotta lifted by a zippy white Zelen or Pinela. You can also sample award-winning craft beer from enigmatic young brewers Pelicon – founded just a year ago, they’ve already been crowned Slovenia’s finest.

As for orange wine, the valley’s finest winemaker is Mlečnik, based in pastoral countryside on the lower Vipava Valley wine road. This father and son team have a holistic approach. At their scenic farmhouse they produce a beautiful Rebula, one of the region’s indigenous varietals, but their gloriously aromatic orange Chardonnays are the highlight. Released after five years of maturation, these will have even the most hardened “ABC” (anything but Chardonnay) adherents ripping up the rulebook.

Vipava Valley Wine Queen, Slovenia, EuropeAnja Kodele, Vipava Valley Wine Queen, image by Eleanor Aldridge

It is interesting to remember, however, that this diversity is a relatively new concept for Slovenia. Before independence in 1991, winemaking was subject to the edicts of Yugoslavian socialism: private production was banned and grapes were contributed to industrial behemoths that churned out millions of bottles a year.

Today, things are different. There’s huge national pride in local winemaking, and in a uniquely Slovene tradition, “wine queens” are chosen each year to champion their region.


Neighbouring the Vipava Valley, Goriška Brda is the closest part of Goriška to Italy. It’s named after the hills, or brda, which are the hallmark of the region. There’s been a twenty percent increase on tourism year on year here, thanks in part to the checkpoint-free roads that lace the border (you can drive to Trieste or Venice in around an hour), but it retains a sleepy tranquillity. Even the slew of outdoor activities on offer – ebiking, kayaking, paragliding and hiking to name a few – do little to disturb the peace.

Brda is characterised by small, somnolent towns like Šmartno, home to just thirty souls. In the surrounding countryside are some 150 independent winemakers, many of whom have opened up their farms as guesthouses and restaurants. They provide a perfect base for exploring the region.

The Klinec homestead and restaurant is one of the most beautifully sited, perched on a hill in Medana overlooking vineyards, olive trees and lightly-forested hillocks. The furnishings might be traditional, but the wines couldn’t be more different. Their surprisingly delicate Jakot and Malvasija – unusually aged in local acai and mulberry wood – are some of their most interesting orange wines. Aleks and family also make prosciutto and olive oil on site.

Šmartno, Slovenia, EuropeŠmartno, image by Eleanor Aldridge

Yet more tranquil is nearby winery and B&B Kmetije Štekar. This simply decorated yellow farmhouse welcomes WWOOF volunteers and paying guests alike. For a sweet note to end a wine tour, try their intensely floral pinky-orange Pinot Gris with panna cotta.


Back in the capital, Ljubljana, wine is also the focus at this time of year. On 11 November the country celebrates St Martin’s day, a feast marking the end of the harvest and the first day on which this year’s wines may be drunk. Stalls pop up across the old town for the Ljubljana Wine Route on the preceding and following weekends, these days attracting an increasingly international crowd.

As orange wine’s cult status continues to grow, this international interest is set to continue. Visit now while this side of Slovenia remains blissfully undiscovered.

Eleanor travelled to Ljubljana with Wizz Air, who fly from London Luton to Ljubljana. If you haven’t got time to venture far beyond the capital, enlist the help of local guide Mateja Kregar Gliha, who runs food and wine tours in the city. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

If there’s one topic guaranteed to get an argument started, it’s food. No matter where you go, you’ll find people convinced that they have the right recipe or way of eating their favourite dish, from roast dinners to burritos. One of the great joys of travelling is extensively taste testing while you pick a side, so here’s a selection of some of the contentious world food and drink debates.

Devon vs Cornwall: cream tea conflicts

While the cultural stereotype that British people try to avoid arguments tends to hold true, there’s one way to almost guarantee conflict. All you need to do is ask a someone from Cornwall and another from Devon over for tea: put out some plain scones, clotted cream and jam and watch an age-old disagreement unfold. The big question, of course, is whether it’s cream then jam, or jam then cream. To end the argument once and for all, make yours into a sandwich and see them band together against a common enemy.

Scone with jam and clotted cream

North Italy vs South Italy: the butter/olive oil debate

While any region’s food culture is constantly evolving, that doesn’t mean people let go of their traditions. A case in point is the butter/olive oil divide in Italy: the cattle-rearing regions of the north led to a cuisine where butter is the dominant fat; in certain parts of the south, olive oil has historically been the preference. While it’s not so clear-cut now, you’ll still find it a point of contention among the older generation in Italy, and family recipes will generally favour one over the other.

Naples vs Chicago: the pizza plea

There’s no arguing with the fact that pizza is a Neapolitan invention, but who says that the original is always the best? The Italian diaspora in America has had a huge influence on American food tastes and led to a lot of new edible creations, one of which is Chicago deep-dish pizza. While it might make a Neapolitan cry (perhaps even more than using pineapple as a topping) many vociferously defend deep-dish pizzas, preferring a thicker crust and more topping (or rather, filling). Thin-crust advocates, though, say the Chicago-style pizza misses out on crunchiness and flavour in favour of excess and frankly terrifying cholesterol levels.

Okonomiyaki, Japan, Asiaルーク.チャン.チャン via Compfight cc

Osaka vs Hiroshima: the two sides of okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is definitely a tale of two cities: Osaka and Hiroshima. It’s Osaka’s version of this savoury, pancake-like dish which has had more success abroad, perhaps because it’s easier to make – all you do is mix the batter and shredded cabbage, add whatever extra ingredients you want, and fry it. Hiroshima’s foodies would say that this is simplistic and messy, and okonomiyaki is best left to the pros: you need a thin layer of batter, then cabbage, extra ingredients (such as pork), noodles and a fried egg, all carefully stacked up into a tower. Again, there’s an easy get-out clause here: just tell the feuding foodies you prefer monjayaki (okonomiyaki’s gloopier cousin from Tokyo), and they’ll miraculously join forces to change your mind.

Europe vs America: the pros and cons of pancakes

Britain and France may do things slightly differently when it come to pancakes, but there’s no debate over the fact that you need a thin layer of batter, which you use to wrap around the filling. In the grand tradition of American cuisine though, their take on the pancake is bigger: much thicker rounds which are usually stacked, served with toppings and sauces. They’re both delicious ways of making this sweet treat, and many people enjoy both – if you feel like bacon and maple syrup, a crêpe really isn’t going to cut it, but then, can anything really beat a classic lemon and sugar?

Thick American pancakes

Middle East vs North Africa: Falafel or tamiya?

Falafel is a popular dish around the world, but many who’ve tried tamiya argue passionately that the use of fava beans over chickpeas creates a creamier, more flavourful dish. It’s not certain exactly where the food originated, but Egypt is a likely source, and there they use fava beans instead of the better-known chickpeas. If you want to avoid an argument, some recipes call for a mix of both pulses – how diplomatic!

England vs Scotland: sugary strife

Historically, England and Scotland have had plenty to argue about, so it’s perhaps a little strange to outsiders that such heated debates can be held on the topic of how hard a particular type of sweet should be. Both fudge and tablet are based on heating sugar and dairy to a soft-ball texture, with fudge then beaten so it gains a soft, creamy texture and tablet left to crystallise. Whether you prefer crunchy or chewy, they’re both delicious – and it’s hardly a chore to taste test yourself!

World war tea

While England is famed for being a nation of tea lovers, its people are far from unified when it comes to making and serving this iconic drink. And they’re not the only ones – whether you prefer to drink black, green, white or red tea, there are arguments to be had about what constitutes a proper brew. Milk or no milk? Does the milk go in before or after the tea? Do you need to warm the teapot? What’s the correct water temperature? Leaves or bags? Perhaps there are ultimately as many ‘correct’ ways to drink tea as there are tea drinkers in the world – and let’s not even start on coffee…

Do you have a pet hate when it comes to food? Which dish gets you debating at the dinner table? Let us know in the comments below.

Tim Chester spends an evening with the “posh couple” from Britain’s latest TV  craze Gogglebox.

Gogglebox shouldn’t work. The TV show about people watching TV shows sounds like the most meta, barrel-scraping idea in the history of 10 Stone Testicle ideas, but somehow it’s compulsive viewing, a window into the country’s living rooms, prejudices and teatime habits that’s pulling in three million viewers per week, a format that has since been sold to the States and numerous other countries.

If you’re one of its legion of converts, you’ve probably longed for a night on the settee with some of the protagonists, an off-camera chit chat with Sandra & Sandy or June & Leon or Christopher & Stephen. As it happens, you can do exactly that.

Steph and Dom Parker, aka “the posh couple”, run a luxury B&B in Sandwich called The Salutation, a sprawling Grade 1-listed, Edwin Lutyens-designed pile set amid gardens inspired by Gertrude Jekyll in the medieval town of Sandwich in Kent. For £99 upwards you can visit the famous property and potentially spend an evening with the pair.

The Salutation, Sandwich - owned by Gogglebox posh couple.

Sadly we missed the £500-per-ticket orgy that was held there the following night, and didn’t catch the likes of Meryl Streep, James Corden and other celebs that have laid their hats in its numerous rooms while filming Into The Woods in recent months, but we nevertheless experienced the kind of evening you’d expect from Britain’s most gregarious hosts.

Dom set the tone as he showed us our en suite room in the Coach House (which includes its own kitchen and sitting room), pointing to complimentary decanters of whisky and sherry, for consumption if we were “getting changed”.

It quickly became clear that bridging drinks are a way of life here, and we were soon plonked on that famous sofa sharing a G&T with the genial host while Steph wandered the house singing Pharrell Williams tunes and making regular trips to the drinks cabinet.

Steph and Dom from Gogglebox

Supper, as it often seems to be in wealthy houses, was conjured on a whim; there’s no official dining here but they can rustle up something if you’re hungry. For us this quick something was a four course blowout of pâté, fillet steak with potato dauphinoise, panna cotta, umpteen cheeses and biblical amounts of wine, and a chance to meet the other guests.

Half of the visitors were out playing golf (The Salutation is surrounded by top courses and uber rich bankers apparently jet in direct from the US to stay and play) and the remainder seemed to be fellow Gogglebox tourists. One couple were celebrating their anniversary while two other pairs were also here for a meet and greet.

Reception at The Salutation, the Gogglebox mansion

It’s a bit odd, making a pilgrimage to meet reality stars, but Steph and Dom are exemplary hosts aside from their minor celebrity status. B&Bs tread a fine line between personal and overly familiar, characterful,  boutique hideaways and someone’s chintzy spare room, and I’ve spent my fair share of nights whispering in bed, tip-toeing around creaky landings, and adhering to innumerable “house rules” printed in comic sans and tucked into A4 pockets.

Here there are no polite notices and howls of laughter replace the cringeworthy hushed chatter of a million dining rooms. The Salutation eschews the claustrophobia of standard B&Bs in favour of the relaxed conviviality of a best friend’s house, if that best friend lives in a £3.5 million mansion with tasseled toilet flush pulls.

The whole group stayed up into the early hours, discussing everything from Nick Clegg to Leon and June (who don’t like Steph and Dom’s swearing), the long filming shifts and sundry celebrity tittle-tattle. The golfers bowled home suitably refreshed about midnight, all bow ties and crossed eyes while host Tigger and various other staff kept the drinks flowing.

Corner house, Sandwich, Kent, UK

The next morning we blearily explored our rooms tucked up in the eaves, leafing through vintage Penguins before a hearty Full English in the dining room. Tripadvisor nerds would probably note the overcooked poached egg at this point, but The Salutation isn’t the kind of place you spend making critical notes alone in your room. It’s somewhere to spend a riotous night before exploring Sandwich and moving on.

A spectacularly well-preserved medieval town full of half-timbered buildings and narrow streets leading to the willow-lined River Stour (currently being flood-proofed and so covered in diggers and workmen on our visit), it’s a sleepy place that’s given birth to the sandwich and rested on its picturesque laurels since.

The Parkers are selling The Salutation so their hospitality won’t be for sale forever. For now though, and short of a night in front of the box with the Tappers, this is the most fun you can have on a Friday night.

Season four of Gogglebox is on Channel 4 on Fridays at 9pm. The Salutation has a variety of rooms available from £99 per night. Explore more of the area with the Rough Guide to Kent, Sussex and Surrey

New York City is famous for its pricey lifestyle. This is the home, after all, to a $250 truffle burger at Beer & Buns Burger Bar, $4600 alligator Manolo Blahniks at Barney’s, and the $45,000 Ty Warner Penthouse at Four Seasons New York (hey – at least it comes with a personal butler). But it doesn’t have to be expensive – here are the best ways to do New York City on a budget.

Culture on a budget

Take advantage of the free day (or night) at many of the city’s museums. The Museum of Modern Art offers free Fridays (4-8 pm), when they also host live music in the sculpture garden (also free for early risers on a Saturday morning from around 9-10am).

High fashion isn’t free, but the exhibits at New York City’s leading fashion museum are. The Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology features free creative exhibits, including artwork by faculty and graduating students. If fashion’s not your thing, you’ll find other museums host free events and lectures throughout the year, including El Museo del Barrio whose collection is dedicated to Puerto Rican, Caribbean, and Latin American art. If you plan to visit a variety of major sights during your stay, you’ll find a number of discount passes, such as CityPASS, offering combined admission discounting.

For music-based entertainment, New York heats up with free outdoor concerts and performances throughout the spring and summer. Head to the venerated Brooklyn Academy of Music, the oldest performing arts centre in the country, which hosts an excellent lineup of free spring and summer concerts, from soul to rock. For some old-fashioned entertainment, go to Central Park where, for many New Yorkers, summer is synonymous with free Shakespeare in the Park, presented by the Delacorte Theater in the park.

Central Park, New York City, NYC, New York, USA

Eating on a budget

When it comes to eating and drinking, “cheap New York” is not an oxymoron. Follow your nose (and follow Twitter: @NYFoodTruck has updated info) to New York City’s growing number of food trucks, like Korilla BBQ, where you can chow on Korean BBQ – including a juicy pork wrap with red kimchi – for under $8. Korilla trucks rotate around NYC, from Midtown to the Flatiron, so keep your eyes peeled.

New York is also a boon for cheap burgers. Head to a nearby Shake Shack outpost for burgers and a namesake shakes (the Black & White is a favorite) – they make a meal for $5 each.

Drinking on a Budget

There was a time when happy hour seemed to have gone the way of the three-martini lunch. But, it’s back and happier than ever, since many NYC bars continue to throw in complimentary snacks. After a long day’s sightseeing, ease into the night over beer at the dive bar Rudy’s, which also serves free hot dogs (until they run out).

Another option for budget suds: try made-in-Brooklyn brews on a free weekend tour (Saturday and Sunday afternoons) of the Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg.

Bryant Park, New York City, USA

Outdoor Activities

Whe the sun is shining and the weather is fair, there are plenty of free outdoor activities across the city parks. Bryant Park offers free juggling lessons throughout the year (most days of week, noon–1 pm) at the 42nd St Plaza. The classes are open to all skill levels, and equipment is provided. The Hudson River may be an urban waterway, but it’s ideal for kayaking, with fairly placid waters, steady breezes, and, of course, gorgeous views of the New York City skyline. The Downtown Boathouse offers classes at its three locations along the Hudson River at Pier 40, Pier 96, and 72nd Street.

 Explore more of the Big Apple with the Rough Guide to New York City. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

The third part in our Slovenia In Four Seasons feature sees Senior Web Editor Tim Chester explore the country in August. Check out our trips from the winter and the spring too.

Think of the northern Adriatic and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Italy – of Venice, Rimini, and Trieste – or Croatia, whose abundant seaside gems stretch from Rovinj to Zadar and beyond. However, you’d be missing an important 47 kilometres, which belong resolutely to Slovenia, a tiny fragment of coast wedged between its neighbours that packs in a disproportionately large number of treats.

Croatia might completely hog the waterfront in this part of the world, snatching miles and miles of stunning coastline from similarly-sized nearby countries and attracting huge numbers of visitors to match, but the Slovene Riviera – sitting pretty at the tip of the Slovene Istria in the south west of the country – is equally as beguiling.

Promenade with Church of San Clemente, Piran, Istria, Slovenia, Europe

Most visitors to this country, which has been independent since 1991, covers an area the size of Wales and numbers just a handful of million inhabitants, head straight for the capital Ljubljana or the justifiably popular Lake Bled, but I’d been told to make a beeline for the beach. So, a couple of hours after our budget plane bounced onto the tarmac we were on top of Hotel Piran in the city of the same name sipping margaritas as the sun dropped into the sea.

The drive along the top of the peninsula to Piran sets the scene: look to the right as the road crests a hill and you can see the fishing port town of Izola, beyond that the more industrial Koper, whose new developments encircle a medieval core, and in the far distance Trieste in Italy. To the left, signs point to the casinos and bars of resort town Portorož, hedges intermittently open to reveal the salt pans of Sečovlje, and in the distance Croatia squats peacefully.

We only had a long weekend to spare so we hit the ground running the following morning, exploring Piran’s cobbled streets and labyrinthine passageways with a local guide. The city dates back to medieval times but it was the Venetian Republic which really left their mark; some corners of the centre look like they’ve been airlifted from the famous watery landmark across the sea and in fact Piran is very much like Venice if you substract the crowds and the effluent.

Tartini Square, Piran, Slovenia

Tartini Square is the place to get your bearings, a former inner port whose buildings and statues tell a variety of stories. Named after Giuseppe Tartini, a famouse violinist and local hero whose statue stands proud in the midst, the city’s hub is crowded with messages for anyone looking in the right place.

On one side, Casa Veneziana is a light red example of Venetian gothic architecture, an erstwhile lodging for a local girl who caught the eye of a Venetian merchant, emblazoned with the words “lasa pur dir” (“let them talk”) in response to the gossip that followed their courtship. The Municipal Palace, meanwhile, features a stone lion with wings holding an open book under its paw, the bared pages signifying the fact it was erected during peace time. The nearby 1st May square is also full of secret stories; look out for depictions of Law and Justice in front of the stone rainwater collector, and the statues holding gutters.

Elsewhere and Piran is home to eight churches, most sadly closed due to vandals and thieves, including the impressive baroque St George’s Parish Church which dates back to the 12th Century and commands awesome views. The imposing city walls and several family attractions, from the Maritime Museum to an aquarium, are also worth your time.

Fonda Fish Farm, Slovenia

That afternoon we were taken by speedboat to a cluster of floating nets belonging to the Fonda Fish Farm, where thousands of Piran sea bass grow into huge healthy specimens under careful supervision. The company are aiming to nurture top quality fish and mussels and their enthusiasm was infectious.

We followed our tour with a dip in the Adriatic back at Piran’s concrete beach and ended the day at Pri Mari, a family-run Mediterranean restaurant and a Rough Guide author pick. The owners, Mara and Tomi, lavished us with fine Slovenian wines and endless thanks once they discovered we were from the book that had brought in so much business over the years, but their hospitality was exemplary before they knew who we were. Two steaks (because that’s what you order at the coast, naturally) were delectable and the place was thrumming with happy customers. Piran nightlife seems somewhat sedate but we managed to find two guitarists playing Pink Floyd to a small dancefloor and a man serving pina coladas in one corner of the port to finish things off.

The following day we drove into the hinterland in search of wine. The Karst region behind the coast is carpeted with vineyards and olive groves, interspersed with peach and cherry trees and harbouring thousands of underground caves (the Postojna and Škocjan caverns are the best known).

Before long we arrived at Korenika & Moškon, a small family-run cellar dating back to 1984. The place actually goes back much further – the family has been producing wine for ages – but the communist regime put paid to that for a while. For several hours we were plied with golden yellow and peachy Malvasia and Paderno whites and bold, interesting reds such as local pride and joy Refošk, a dark ruby and almost port-like liquid.

Town of Izola, Slovenia

From here we were driven to Izola for the weekend fish festival, a lively gathering of locals and domestic tourists who descend on the port for live music, craft stalls and plenty of fried catch.

On Sunday we sped through Portorož, Slovenia’s answer to the French Riveria but without the bumper-to-bumper traffic and hordes of people selling tat laid out on bedsheets, to the Sečovlje salt pans.

Salt pans, Slovenia A worker collects salt in Slovenia

A vast national park that has been producing salt for 700 years and continues to this day, it marks the border with Croatia and plays host to an abundance of wildlife. We jumped on a golf cart for a flying tour of the endless salty pools before taking a dunk in the dirt at the in-house spa. Lying caked in sea salt and mud wraps in the middle of this barren landscape, we fell into a trance like happy hippos.

Back in Piran, a final goodbye cocktail reflecting the deep orange rays of one last late summer Slovene sunset, we toasted our new discovery: 47km of criminally overlooked summer fun.

 Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides destination page for Sloveniabook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That’s the traveller’s rule of thumb, but in a metropolis of 11 million like São Paulo, Brazilit’s hard to know where to start. Luckily Paulistanos take their food, drink and partying seriously, so if you want to immerse yourself like a local, follow our lead: 

Join the queue at Bar Veloso

Set in a quiet residential square in the Vila Mariana neighbourhood, this buzzy corner boteco is perennially packed – and for good reason. Its award-winning caipirinhas feature exotic fruits such as jabuticaba and pitaya (dragon fruit) or weird combos like tangerine with chilli peppers, and its bar grub is a notch above the rest. The coxinha in particular – a creamy, chicken-and-cheese-croquette – is the city’s best, and worth the inevitable wait alone. If you’re keen on sitting, veer towards Veloso’s adjacent space next door or try snagging a stool at either side’s bar. But if the (strong) possibility of standing all night doesn’t kill your buzz, just squeeze in with the chatty locals along the sidewalk and let your worries pass you by.

Have a Paulistano breakfast at Café Floresta

Gone are the days when Centro was the focal point of São Paulo, but a step inside the old-school, standing room-only Café Floresta, on the ground floor of the city’s iconic Copan building, inspires visions of downtown’s glory days. Order an espresso shot of their eponymous brew with a pão na chapa (toasted, buttered bread) and a glass of freshly-squeezed OJ, and watch as some of the Copan’s 5000 or so eclectic residents trickle out to start their day.

Feira Liberdade, Sao Paulo, BrazilThe fiera at Liberdade, by Juan Cifrian

Sample the local goods at a feira

Once the sugar and caffeine starts oozing out of your pores, lose yourself in one of the city’s abundant open-air feiras (street markets). Few countries can lay claim to the diversity of Brazil’s produce, and with feiras taking place all over the city, 7 days a week, these street stalls are the best place to try before you buy. Those hungry and pressed for time can make a beeline for the crazy-sweet caldo de cana (sugar cane juice) and the saturating pastels (thin-crust fried pies), but street food fans in no rush should sample the variety of typical treats at the popular weekend feiras at Praça República, Liberdade and Benedito Calixto.

Pig Out at Genuíno

Saturday afternoons in São Paulo mean live music and feijoada – a slow-cooked, pork and bean stew – and you won’t find a better pairing of the two than at Genuíno’s. Head straight to the garden out back, where the live MPB (Música popular brasileira) and chorinho is played from the house’s second-story balcony. The feijoada is served in an all-you-can-eat spread alongside three different flavours of batida, a whipped, cachaça cocktail infused with condensed milk. Locals never get tired of their sugary treats, so don’t forget to pre-empt your pig-out fatigue with a caipirinha – there’s plenty more partying to come.

Genuino, Sao Paulo, BrazilThe feast at Genuíno, by Juan Cifrian

Dance all day with Sambistas

Now that you’re properly fuelled up, start your Saturday samba crawl at Traço de União, an expansive samba hall where the restless party crowd starts filing in for the infectious live music around 3pm and stays until well into the evening.

Once you’ve had your fill of Traço’s meat market, take a cab to Vila Madalena for a more intimate vibe at Pau Brasil, named after the same tree as the country (Brazilwood). This steamy, hole-in-the-wall bar packs in tight around the roda de samba (informal style of samba where the musicians share the floor with the crowd), but you’ll be too caught up in the moment to care.

If you prefer having more room to operate, go around the corner and give Grazie a Dio a twirl. Samba rock – an offshoot of the samba genre – is usually in heavy rotation, so the dancing is paired, in a style similar to the turn-happy salsa.

Traço Da União, Sao Paulo, BrazilTraço Da União, by Juan Cifrian

People-watch at Lanchonete Charme da Paulista

São Paulo’s tourist trail pales in comparison to the spectacular sights of Rio de Janeiro, but you could find worse than the cityscape that accompanies a stroll down postcard-perfect Avenida Paulista. For full effect, hunker down for a bucket of beers at Charme da Paulista, a humming sidewalk boteco with an unobstructed view of the city’s looming flagship museum, MASP, and the throng of Paulistanos pounding the pavement both day and night.

Get Low-Down and Dirty in Baixo Augusta

A sharp right off the heights of Avenida Paulista onto the lower end of Rua Augusta takes you into the edgier, grittier side of the city’s nightlife known as Baixo Augusta. Paulistanos from all walks of life duck in and out of jam-packed dives and live music venues, or simply hang out on the sidewalk with beer in hand. The remnants of the city’s former red light district are increasingly evident as you journey downhill, and it can get downright dodgy in the wee hours of the night, but the cast of characters and diversity of this unpretentious party scene ensures it’s never a dull night.

Pizza from Speranza, Sao Paulo, BrazilPizza from Speranza

Try a Paulistano Pie

No Sunday is complete without the peculiar Paulistano tradition of having pizza with knife and fork, white tablecloths, and waiters serving your every slice tableside. Whether it’s a famous margherita at Speranza or the frango com catupiry (chicken with soft cheese) at one of the city’s renowned Bráz branches, indulge in the city’s pride and joy and decide for yourself whether São Paulo pies really are the world’s best.

Pedal on Sunday’s Ciclofaixa

The perfect way to balance all this indulgence is to join the droves of Paulistanos on the city’s extensive bike path, known as the Ciclofaixa. Walking around a new city will always be the best way to soak it all up, especially when cycling is as treacherous as it is through as São Paulo, but on Sundays and holidays from 7am to 4pm, these coned-off bike lanes on some of the main roads invite everyone from families to serious cyclists to go for a spin. Rent your set of wheels at the scenic Parque Ibirapuera for R$5/hour and follow the flow of traffic.

Explore more of Brazil here with the Rough Guides website. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

The Swedish love to fika. At least twice a day if they have the time. Any place that has a verb for drinking coffee and eating something sweet will always be more than alright by foodie Rachel Mills. Find out how she ate her way around Skåne in southern Sweden.

The southernmost region of Sweden is known for growing, farming, foraging and hunting and the municipality of Skåne is forging an international reputation as a place to eat and drink yourself happy.

On the frontier of many bloody historic Swedish-Danish conflicts, Skåne today stands very much shoulder to shoulder with the Danes, just over the Öresund Strait, not least because of the mighty 16km bridge that directly links Malmö with Copenhagen (and the rest of mainland Europe). Completed in 1999, the bridge was the catalyst for the rapid redevelopment of Sweden’s third-largest city.

Öresund Strait, Skane, SwedenImage by Silvia Man/

Malmö is home to 300,000 residents, a friendly and multicultural lot who are proud of their city and the wonderfully fertile province around it. The ecologically-minded administration is working hard to become sustainable and has ambitious plans to run the entire city on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

An integral part of this drive towards sustainability is food. Locally sourced, organic, healthy food is top of the agenda, and Malmö – a Fairtrade city – boasts a superb café culture and restaurant scene that thrives on serving up tasty dishes based on seasonal ingredients.

I was lucky enough to visit for Malmö’s first ever Restaurant Day when locals with a passion for food opened up their homes, and squares and public parks, and set up pop-up restaurants of their own. The perfect day to squeeze in a little exercise with a lot of indulgence, I jumped on a bike to better explore the attractive city streets and get between the thirteen pop-ups a little quicker. Anyone used to cycling nose to tail with HGVs will find the almost deserted 470km of cycle paths an absolute joy to navigate.

Pop up fika, Malmo,  Sweden, EuropeImage by Rachel Mills

First stop was the wonderful Bake and Breakfast, where in the shared gardens of her apartment block, Ghenwa Nahim and her three children were serving up traditional Lebanese bread stuffed with cheese and herbs from her allotment. After tearing ourselves away we took the scenic route towards the cutting-edge Western Harbour and the ever-present Turning Torso, the tallest building in Scandinavia. Paula Rooth had pimped up her bicycle and set up a Bike Café on the roadside, selling delicious vegan, gluten-free and sugar-free cakes and cookies, along with mint tea.

Lunch was at På Taket, where seven floors up, Madeleine Fritsch-Lärka and her family had transformed a huge balcony into a buzzing eatery. On the menu was freshly made rhubarb lemonade, mouthwatering goats’ cheese on a bed of lettuce, with walnuts, honey and vitlöksvinägrett, with a divine almond, lemon and vanilla ice-cream based on an old Estonian recipe for Pascha (passover) pudding.

Ridiculously full, I soldiered on for an afternoon at Smakverkstand Makes History (a local non-profit group with a passion for historic recipes), Tea Party (yet more wonderful cakes), Vegan Mama (Lebanese stew) and Monkey Fist Tacos (Mexican).

A Taste of Swedish Hospitality, Sweden, EuropeImage by Rachel Mills

If you’re not here on Restaurant Day, then A Slice of Swedish Hospitality gives visitors the chance to get to know locals over dinner in their own home. I gave it a go, and any awkwardness I might have felt about turning up at a stranger’s house to eat was overcome by Kicki and Bjorn, our genuine and friendly hosts.

People take part for a variety of reasons, to meet new friends or practice cooking, but everyone speaks English, and there’s a lot of insider information about what’s best in Malmö (apparently the parks, music scene and football team are a big plus). Our traditional Swedish midsummer feast included herring, meatballs and Janssons frestelse (a bit like potato gratin), ales from a local brewery and of course the customary aquavit, with singing before each shot.

Dunkers Culture Center, Helsingborg, SwedenImage by Anna Nilsson/

65km north of Malmö, Helsingborg is the alternative hub for travel from Denmark (which is just 4km across the strait). An elegant and prosperous university city with a relaxed and liberal feel, historic Helsingborg is aspiring to become a cruise ship destination. It has spruced up the buzzing waterfront and opened the gleaming Dunkers Kulturhus to host exhibitions and events.

The city is expanding ever south and the once industrial wastelands are brimming with start-ups like the Helsingborgs Bryggeri, which is keeping the Skåne brewing culture alive – in an  old slaughterhouse. This tiny microbrewery produced 85,000 litres of beer last year and if you can’t join a Saturday tour, search out a bottle of the dark and smooth Kaffestout in the local systemboloaget, or government-affiliated alcohol shop.

Helsingborg has various stylish restaurants, cafés and konditori, the most polished of which is Sofiero, an absolute must for anyone wanting a blow out meal. Prepared by some of Sweden’s best chefs (who know how to create soufflé and bisque with the best of them) and served in the dining room of the once royal summer residence, it’s a wonderful affair.

North of Helsingborg you can get up close and personal with the cracking Skåne countryside on the craggy Kullaberg Peninsula, a Special Protection Area that hosts all sorts of animal and birdlife. The new Kullaleden trail can be tackled in about five days and takes in the entire coast of the peninsula. Locals refer to the place as “the first green island in Europe” (following the Ice Age) and there are some great little beaches, seaside villages, private gardens and castles to visit. Along the route you can book into hotels or B&Bs, or rough it in rustic shelters with a sea view thrown in for free.

Food hall Kullaberg Peninsula, Sweden, EuropeImage by Rachel Mills

It’s not all just about nature though, there are a number of foodie delights on the Kullaberg Peninsula. Seek out the market hall in Höganäs to stock up on fresh, local artisan produce – sourdoughs, meats, cheeses, wild garlic, tomato jam and every seasonal fruit and vegetable you could want. The market is the brainchild of The Grand Hotel in nearby Mölle, and even if you don’t stay here, stop at the village for the picturesque harbour and the Krukmakeri and Café (don’t go home without buying some pottery or trying this quirky café’s famous tomato soup).

For a guided tour of the peninsula’s nature reserve with a focus on food and local folklore, get in touch with Kullabergs Matvandringar. Founders Mia Håkansson and husband Mats dreamed up the idea on a walkabout in Australia, and I spent several happy hours with them exploring peaceful meadows, beech forest and lush pastures, as a wonderful succession of pop-up picnics appeared as if from nowhere (thanks Mats). The food and drink was from the best local producers – think sausage, berries, sweetened herring fried in butter, roe, freshly baked rye bread, new potatoes, tomatoes of every colour and tender asparagus.

The final foodie indulgence for me was Flickorna Lundgren Café. Opened during the Depression by the Lundgren sisters, today it’s run by the third generation of the same family and is the place to fika in style. Sit back in the gardens of the picture-postcard cottage, sample traditional vaniljhjärta (delicious heart-shaped pastries filled with vanilla cream – they churn out 37,000 a week here) and sip coffee. You’ll love to fika too.

Rachel stayed in the Villa Thalassa in Helsingborg (room only from 900SEK (£80) per night based on two sharing) and the Rica Hotel in Malmö (bed and breakfast from 590SEK (£52) based on two sharing). A Slice of Swedish Hospitality costs 550 SEK (£50) for adults and 250 SEK (£23) for children (5-12), including all taxes and drinks. Featured image by Tina Stafrén/

Explore more of Sweden with the Rough Guide to Sweden. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Contrary to the popular belief that the burrito is a resolutely Mexican delicacy, the truth is that it’s far more of a “Cal-Mex” (Californian-meets-Mexican) success story. You can certainly track down burritos in the northern reaches of Mexico, but you’re likely to find far more complex and embellished versions north of the border – particularly in San Francisco, the birthplace of the Mission-style burrito.

The story goes that, one day in 1961, Febronio Ontiveros, manager of sandwich/taco shop El Faro in San Francisco’s Mission district, decided to shake things up for his daily clientele of hungry firemen by concocting an oversized version of a standard burrito. By piling extra meat, plus cheese, vegetables, salsa, and (for the brave) sour cream atop the burrito’s foundation of Mexican rice and refried beans – before wrapping the entire hot mess in a jumbo-sized tortilla – Ontiveros created what would, within a few decades, become California‘s greatest contribution to lowbrow food culture since the fast-food hamburger.

Today, San Francisco’s 47 square miles are awash in well over 150 taquerias, nearly all of which specialize in Mission-style (a.k.a. super) burritos. As you’d expect in such a bean-and-salsa-saturated market, certain taquerias here merit more credibility than others. Here are five of the best bets for burly burritos by the bay.


As San Francisco’s bourgeois factor has exponentially increased in recent years, the city’s Mexican dining scene has seen an influx of stylish, higher-priced options. For the salt-of-the-earth taqueria enthusiast, however, La Espiga de Oro perseveres undaunted. With an inviting open-air entrance, chicharonnes (deep-fried pork skins) on the menu, and ruthlessly grilled tortillas cradling its top-shelf burritos, this family-run operation has been an unsophisticated mainstay along 24th Street in the heart of the Mission district since the early 1990s. Note that the place closes by 7pm most evenings, so don’t delay your arrival into mid-evening (or later).
La Espiga de Oro: 2916 24th St (near Florida St)


Papalote Mexican grill, San Francisco, USAviinzography via Compfight cc

Another family-operated burrito shop that got its start in the 1990s, Papalote was the first San Francisco taqueria to significantly up the ante on the quality of its ingredients (and charge a dollar or two more for the privilege) en route to reaping major rewards for its fresh slant on standard taqueria fare. It’s just about impossible to go wrong with anything on the menu here – carnivores and vegans routinely rave about the carne asada and marinated tofu, respectively – but it’s Papalote’s universally adored roasted tomato salsa that’s the true secret weapon of the tiny kitchen, and it’s available alongside a basket of warm chips served with every order. There’s also a wide variety of beer available.
Papalote: 3409 24th St (near Valencia St) and 1777 Fulton St (near Masonic Ave)


The Richmond and Sunset districts, which dominate the west side of San Francisco, aren’t quite as well known for Latin American flair, but it’s finally becoming an open civic secret that there’s no shortage of exceptional taquerias on the foggier side of the city. At the top of the mist-covered heap stands Gordo Taqueria, whose three Richmond and Sunset locations roll up hundreds upon hundreds of chubby burritos daily. Watching a Gordo burrito technician ply his craft behind the ordering counter is an exercise in cool efficiency, and while your lunch or dinner may not look remarkably special as its emsemble of ingredients is assembled in a matter of moments (with your crucial input, of course), the aluminum-foiled result is invariably heavenly. Request a grilled tortilla.
Gordo Taqueria: 1233 9th Ave (near Lincoln Way), 2252 Clement St (near 24th Ave), and 5450 Geary Blvd (near 19th Ave).

Burrito, San FranciscoEric Martin via Compfight cc


Some call it El Burrito Express, others know it as the Burrito Train, and the acronym-happy make it sound like an airport by referring to it as simply EBX. Local colloquialisms aside, this stalwart taqueria remains a perennial favourite for its burrito options both mainstream (all the usual carnivorous and vegetarian suspects are on offer) and slipstream (El Gigante, in tribute to the local baseball squad’s uniform colours, features black beans and sweet potatoes; the macho burrito is the approximate size of your head). Those with sizeable appetites early in the day may wish to drop by during morning hours for a belt-busting breakfast burrito. It’s closed on Sunday, but there’s beer available to enjoy with your burrito all the other days.
El Burrito Express: 1812 Divisadero St (near Bush St) and 1601 Taraval St (near 26th Ave)


Traditionally known for its exceptional, avocado-rich vegatarian burrito – to say nothing of its blindingly yellow-and-red interior colour scheme – Taqueria Can-cún has managed to keep its menu prices among the lowest of any San Francisco taqueria while never resorting to serving Grade-F monkey meat. On the contrary, in fact; Can-cún’s meat burritos, from carnitas pork to pollo asado to carne asada, are all equally reputable, as are its fiery salsas (although the chips with which they’re served could use a bit of work). Order a flavourful horchata to complement your meal – Can-cún’s sweet, rice-cinnamon agua fresca beverage offsets spicy foods splendidly well. Beer is also available.
Taqueria Can-cún: 3211 Mission St (near Valencia St), 2288 Mission St (near 19th St), and 1003 Market St (near 6th St)

Explore more of San Francisco with the Rough Guide to The USA. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Portland, Oregon, can be addressed in many ways. It’s a city of soubriquets, bearing nicknames bestowed by locals to reflect its charms: The City of Roses to those who love its natural abundance; The City of Bridges by those who can’t help but notice the freeway’s influence; Beervana by fans of its prolific brew culture.

PDX to pilots and Stumptown to locals, it’s borrowed a catchphrase from another city down south; “keep Portland weird” is a mantra familiar to anyone who’s spent time in Austin, Texas. It’s also one of those west coast cities, like LA or Palo Alto, whose reputation precedes it and whose essence is endlessly debated.

To the outside world, it’s Portlandia, “where  young people go to retire”, where – according to Saturday Night Live’s Fred Armisen and Sleater Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein –  the ‘90s is alive, people are content to be unambitious, sleep to 11 and hang out with their friends. A place marooned blissfully in a simpler past where city slackers in plaid shirts and tribal tattoos still read paper books.

We i-spyed plenty of Portland clichés. A vintage clothes shop playing The Bends. A bicycle barista handing out free coffee in a shady university park. Flyers advertising beer yoga. Men with dogs curled over their shoulders like living stoles playing Magic: The Gathering. A feminist bookstore offering protection from all manner of persecution. We did not see anyone playing with a diablo.

 Keep Portland Weird sign, Portland Oregon Canadian Veggie / FlickrPhoto: Canadian Veggie / Flickr Creative Commons

Portland sits snugly in its pigeonholes but of course offers much more than Portlandia suggests, comfortably surpassing all the requirements a modern visitor might throw at it.

Craft beer is a thing now – well, Portland has 50+ local breweries. Food trucks have spread like a rash across most western cities; Portland has more than 700 for its half a million city dwellers. Green spaces? The city is riddled with them. In fact, if you’re a fan of wine, live music, gregarious and predominantly liberal locals, books or culture, it’s well worth the two-hour, $15 ride from Seattle.

Cycle superhighways (proper ones, not like the ones we have in England) crisscross the city and the Willamette river, linking its disparate neighbourhoods and providing the easiest, greenest, and most Portland way to see the city.


We started our exploration with sliders and nitro Irish stout at rock’n’roll themed hotel McMenamins, in the Pearl District, Portland’s revamped industrial zone. It’s home to Powell’s City Of Books, declared with the usual American superlative pride as the largest in world, and housing over a million books in 3,500 sections, as well as a massive brewery – Deschutes – who offer tasting flights featuring their latest brews. Books and beer were quickly to become the defining motif of the trip.

Further south, Portland’s Downtown District to the west of the Willamette houses many of the city’s main attractions and we ticked off a few, the contemplative Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden probably the best among them. There are also numerous foodie pilgrimages to be made in this part of town, and we did our best at those, from a flaming Spanish coffee mixed and ignited at the table at Huber’s to doughnuts shaped like a penis and covered in bacon at Voodoo Doughnuts, via poached chicken at bloggers’ favourite food cart Nong’s Khao Man Gai.

Japanese Garden Portland - Pic from Flickr CCPhoto:  Ryan Stavely / Flickr Creative Commons

These were all preambles to Portland’s main attraction, though: the suburbs scattered across the eastern half of the city. Up north, Alberta is perhaps the spiritual home of Portland as we know it from the TV, the home of that feminist bookshop, among numerous whole foodsy spots and other crumbling monuments to the counterculture. It’s been deemed gentrified by the locals, which is bad news if you like things to stay raw, but good news if you’re a fan of olive oil ice cream, and some of the parks and residential streets nearby are stunning.

A handful of blocks to the west, Mississippi and Williams are two parallel swathes of excellent coffee shops and food trucks, populated by art school students and other hipster types. ¿Por Que No? serve up the best tacos I’ve tasted north of San Francisco and Ristretto proffer perhaps the city’s finest coffee.

Tacos at Por Que No, Portland

Photo: / Flickr Creative Commons

Hawthorne & Belmont further south are Beervana’s heart, home to an embarrassment of brew pubs. Cascade Brewing Barrel House specialised in sour beers, oak aged and fruit-infused, tart tipples that edge towards 10% ABV and are presented like a wine tasting with cheese plates and a price point to match. Strawberry, goji berry, apricot, honey and ginger lime can all be enthusiastically vouched for. Lucky Labrador, meanwhile, was a dog friendly pub (naturally) full of laptop-toting drinkers and card players while Green Dragon offered 62 taps of craft beer joy.

On my wife’s insistence, and as recommended by none other than Time magazine, we stopped by a strip club. These are done differently in Portland, and Sassy’s was more of a community affair, featuring a 50/50 male/female split among the clientele, and a world away from the dismal pound-in-a-pint-glass affairs that fester malignantly in London’s darker corners. There’s another in the city that serves vegan food and only allows its dancers to shed non-animal-based clothing – classic Portland. From here, food trucks and bookshops continue south as far as the eye can see – and the belly can withstand – down to Clinton.

Cycling back over the imposing Steel Bridge, under an incessant and uncharacteristic sun and spurred on by a craft beer buzz, it dawned on us that Portland had just leaped to pole position in our ranking of US cities. The ’90s might be alive and well round here, but if this is time travel, we’ll be first in the DeLorean.

Tim stayed in the James Brown room at legendary bar/gig venue/boutique hotel McMenamins and got around Portland on Pedal Bike Tours rentals.

Quinns on Capitol Hill, around 8pm on the Saturday night, is when we hit the wall. Halfway though a wild boar sloppy joe, which oozed out of its brioche confines like meaty magma, spilling fried onion and Fresno pepper across the plate in an explosion of gluttonous joy, we were done. Finished. Finito. Couldn’t have a morsel more. Except perhaps a bite of that Brussels sprout and mustard cream-stuffed Scotch egg. Thanks for being our server tonight, but please stop bringing food.

The restaurant, in the heart of Seattle’s lively, gay-friendly, still somewhat countercultural part of town, is not a place for calorie counting. A touch of pretentiousness aside (I’m not sure how much the chips, or French fries, or ‘frites’ as they’re known here, benefitted from Fontina fonduta and veal demi-glace), it’s a feeder’s paradise but far from unique in a city renowned for its food.

Sloppy Joe at Quinns 2

Photo:  msparksls / Flickr Creative Commons

We’d started our Richman-esque tour with salmon. First we watched them swimming in the fish ladder at Ballard Locks, in the northwest of the city, navigating between the salty waters of Puget Sound and the fresh water of Lake Union, a great spot for walking, seal-spotting and exploring the nearby Scandinavian communities.

Then we ate them, at Pike Place Fish Market by the Elliott Bay waterfront in downtown Seattle, hacked into chunks by a man in knee-high wellies, smoked, infused with garlic and pepper, and turned to jerky. While we devoured them, and some sliced Nova Scotia salmon lox, other men in overalls threw fish at each other, bellowing banter to conjure a scene that drew in hordes of camera-toting shoppers.

Salmon at Pike Place

Photo: Alanosaur / Flick Creative Commons

Pike Place Fish sits in the centre of Pike Place Market, an obscenely touristy spot but an essential consideration for anyone that likes food. Their salmon, swordfish, trout, tuna, sturgeon, stockfish, crab, shrimp, and mussels (not to mention oysters so good they empty your wallet fast, lending a new meaning to Dickens’ immortal “poverty and oysters always seem to go together”) sit among an abundance of treats.

We joined one of Savor Seattle’s tours, which start somewhat inauspiciously in a comedy club whose walls are covered with second hand chewing gum. Once we’d pushed the masticated polymers out of our minds, and run through the guide’s opening gambit of jokes, we were quickly whisked round various shops and stalls to begin the feeding.

Daily Dozen’s doughnuts kicked things off, steaming dough bites doused in sugar and lasting all of ten seconds between us, before creamy, chunky seafood bisque at Pike Place Chowder, doughy pastries from  Piroshky Piroshky that would melt Red from Orange Is The New Black’s heart, and more creamy, chunky joy from the mac cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Come to think of it, there was a lot of dough and a lot of cream involved, a rapid gorge with a chocolate cherry or two (from Chukar Cherries) on top.

Mac cheese at Beechers, Seattle

Photo: Brighter than sunshine / Flickr Creative Commons

As one of the oldest continuous markets in the country, Pike Place has a chequered history. Growing out of an impromptu collection of farmers over a hundred years ago, it officially took shape in 1907 amid allegations of corruption and disagreements between city officials and producers. It’s since weathered scandals – inexcusable purging of Japanese-Americans in the early ’40s and plans for demolition in the ’60s – and thanks to an innovative scheme in the ’80s whereby locals could sponsor floor tiles to donate funds, its future looks secure.

After the morning tour, and a tasting flight of Washington State wines from Lost River Winery later (it was 5pm on the east coast at that point), we explored the area, including the Space Needle and Elliott Bay.

Before long we were hungry again, so headed to a few of Tom Douglas’ restaurants. The chef has built a small empire in Seattle, and managed to conquer numerous food types in the process; his outposts cover Italian, Greek, Asian and seafood. We ducked into Lola for some dolmades stuffed with herbs, pine nuts and currants, before waddling half a block to Serious Pie. Pie means pizza, and here it means paper-thin crusts cooked at 700°F and loaded with topping choices that trigger debilitating menu paralysis. Yukon Gold potato with rosemary and pecorino was an inspired mix, as was sweet fennel sausage with roasted peppers and provolone. Pale ales and apricot ciders did the honours in accompaniment.

Pizza at Serious Pie, Seattle

Photo: solsken / Flickr Creative Commons

These additional snacks gave us energy to see some more of Seattle, including Bruce and Brandon Lee’s graves at the top of a hill in Lake View Cemetery. The father-son spot is pretty poignant, although I felt for the other souls adjacent, whose memory was trampled unheeded by a cavalcade of comfy shoes.

Gas Works Park, meanwhile, was a picturesque place to perch across the lake, enabling food coma slumps on the ground under the faraway buzz of incessant seaplanes. The nearby Fremont Brewing Company, meanwhile, introduced me to the concept of growlers, big beer containers that allow you to take home your favourite brews.

Beer at Fremont Brewing, Seattle

Photo:  tinatinatinatinatina / Flickr Creative Commons

The following morning we took a bus to Portland, but not before a manic dash to The Crumpet Shop at Pike Place. Specialising in proper English crumpets for nearly four decades, they give them an American spin (think walnuts, honey and ricotta), but indulged my lifelong penchant for Marmite, cheddar and cucumber. We also managed to follow in Obama’s footsteps briefly, and grabbed a bag of doughnuts from Top Pot on the way to the station, because you just never know when hunger will strike.

We stayed at Hotel Andra in the downtown district, which is nestled among shops, bars, and near Pike Place Market. And yes, we did get room service.

Featured image of Seattle Skyline by  howardignatius on Flickr (Creative Commons).

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