Pharmacy convenience Italian style

This is the first time I have seen a pharmacy vending machine. Quite a good idea really and I imagine it would be very convenient, especially in small towns where there are limited shopping hours.

Pharmacy vending machine

In this vending machine there were antiseptic wipes, pain killers (such as panadol equivalent), a pregnancy test (in case of an emergency?), condoms, sunblock, nappies, and toothbrushes just to name a few items.

Pretty cool!


Italian supermarkets

Oh how I LOVE Italian supermarkets!  Most of them (not all mind you), have the most fantastic produce, delis, and butchers.

Fresh produce in the Umbrian supermarket

Supermarket shopping when I travel is something I love to do. It gives a real insight into the sorts of foods people eat, what is cheap, what is expensive, and what is readily available. For example, when we shopped for our stay at our Umbrian Palace, Laguscello (near Orvieto), two-minute noodles where nowhere to be found.  And I think this is a good thing.

The variety of tomatoes available in the supermarket is enough to make me want to live here, and the price of them is enough to get Walter excited about being here!  I’ve seen tomatoes from Euro 0.99 cents per kilo and the most expensive I’ve seen have been Euro 2.60 per kilo.

A 1.5 litre bottle of natural mineral water at Eurospar, one of the bigger supermarkets in the area costs Euro 0.15.  That’s about A$0.18!!  18 cents!  We pay ten times that in Australian supermarkets!  We are getting totally ripped off!

My contribution to dinner, Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella bought from the supermarket – OMG yum!

Proscuito crudo (parma ham) cost Euro 7.00 per kilo.  In Australia, we pay a minimum of A$40.00 per kilo for the locally produced proscuito. Imported proscuito costs A$65 per kilo and more.  It’s hard to believe.  And people think Europe is expensive….

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Two cappuccini and a plain croissant cost Euro 2.60 or A$3.12.  And to think in Australia we pay more than that just for one cappuccino!

Eating out is also so much cheaper than Perth.  Last night for example, Zorba and I had an amazing three-course meal with house red wine for Euro 50, or A$60.  In Perth, it would have cost twice that without a doubt.

It may be expensive to travel to Italy, but once you are here, it’s cheap.

The only thing that isn’t cheap is firewood.  Two sacks of firewood cost Euro 25!  That is heaps!  Still, to be able to make our own pizza dough and cook them in our own wood-fired oven is going to be fantastic.  Can’t wait til we do that tomorrow night!




After a long flight leaving home in Perth at 4am, we arrived in steaming hot Dubai some 14 hours later at 13:00 local time. Thank God for tamazapan, they thankfully knocked me out for six hours.  My luggage weighed a record low of just 15.7kg.  So light for me! Proud of my packing efforts x

We were met at the airport and transferred to our four star digs for the night, the lovely Qamardeen Hotel near the Dubai Mall in the old town.

Dubai as a place is surreal.  Pavements are made with granite and marble, everything is clean and neat and it feels so functional and efficient. The hotel shuttle bus took us to the Mall of the Emirates, the famous mall with the indoor ski field.  Hard to believe people are skiing inside a mall when it is 40+ degrees outside!

Ski slope, Mall of the Emirates

Zorba was quick off the shopping mark and bought himself a pair of polarised Oakley sunnies on sale for $170 – good shopping from Zorbs!  My purchases = nil. A first for me! I wanted to, but knowing I have a month ahead of carrying it all on my back was all the motivation I needed to keep my wallet shut.

After a short rest in the hotel, we ventured out for dinner at the adjacent  Al Manzil Hotel at the Courtyard restaurant, set in a gorgeous erm, courtyard setting with trees and candles. Both of us were keen to feast on traditional Arabic cuisine and chose the tasting menu at $45pp.  Way too much food for two people, however delicious.


A huge mezze spread that included a labne, pickles, Kuwait lobster salad and calamari in spicy sauce.

The main course of gigantic prawns and really scrumptious chicken in like a tikka sauce almost took me to bursting point.

The yummy nutty custard like dessert had to be eaten, but the Arabic biscuits were taken in a doggy bag – much to Zorba’s angst…”why do we need to take these?”. Yes, yes, he was probably right.

Main course

After dinner we braved the almost suffocating heat and walked around to the sensational water fountain light show – which happens every 30mins. We saw it twice. It was spectacular.

The sweet smell of apple tobacco filled the air as hundreds of people enjoyed  a shisha in one of the many the outdoor cafes that line the waterway.

I couldn’t resist, so once back at our oasis, the Qamardeen Hotel, I look my trusty MacBookAir out by the pool and here I am updating this blog whilst having a shisha, and I’m loving it!  Zorba is catching up on zzzz’s in the room.

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We are knackered, no doubt about it. And in hindsight, our stop over to Dubai might have been better on our way home when we could shop shop shop!  Ah, well, never mind. We have had a brilliant first day of holidays.

Next stop Milano tomorrow, where after a six hour flight, we will catch a train to Monterosso on the picturesque Cinque Terre.  A presto!


Al Manzil Hotel & Qamardeen Hotel
Emaar Boulevard, The Old Town, Downtown Dubai
Tel: +971 4 428 6888
Our room cost A$170 per night.  Dinner cost us about $120 for two, including a beer each.

OMG how did that happen?!

Every time I look at my beautiful sparkling engagement ring, I ask myself that question – how did that happen?   Seems to be a theme with Zorba and I.   Things just happen without a lot of fan fare or planning.  Like buying our house.  It just happened after we popped into a home open on the street where I was living.  We had only looked at one other house…

So here we were in Hong Kong, shopping, walking, sightseeing and just generally being tourists and trying to fit as much into our 16 hour lay over as we could – including eating.  For those who know me, they know that unforgettable food experiences are high on my list of priorities and a very important part of any cultural experience.  Naturally, I had done some research into where to eat in Hong Kong and made a reservation at a little restaurant one food critic had described as the place where he had one of the best meals of his life – Yin Yang [Ship Street, Wan Chai, tel 28660868].  We had 1.5 hours to kill before dinner and were both feeling a little weary after a long over night flight and 12 hours on our feet. 

We decided to make our way to Wan Chai, the district where we were having dinner, find a bar, and have a pre dinner drink.  Then I saw a jewellery store and I suggested / begged Zorba to go in – just to have a look.  In my mind, I was thinking that I should get some idea of the sort of engagement ring I’d like – and more importantly give Zorba an idea of what I like.  I had a suspicion that he was going to propose to me as soon as I got back from my trip.  Zorba said that trying on rings was a good idea and we went into Man Fook Jewellers in Wan Chai.  Funny, because of the name of the store, I took a photo of the sign out the front (must’ve been an omen!). 

We were seated straight away, given an endless amount of green tea and I was picking and choosing rings to try on and Zorba was critiquing each one.  It was really fun!  When I put it on, the ring that was later to become my engagement ring, I knew I’d found the kind of ring I was looking for. It is stunning without being ostentatious, so sparkly thanks to the ‘arrow’ cut of the diamond, and set in a very simple, classic, yet slightly unusual way.

Zorba asked me if I like it, and of course I said yes. It was stunning.   The chatty sales assistant was spitting out all this information – diamond from Sth Africa, high grade clarity and colour, authentication certificate, lifetime guarantee, able to trade it in for a bigger ring for the same price at any time, on sale (ended up being 40% off) blah blah blah… I could hardly listen to her – I was almost speechless and totally stunned as I watched Zorba pull out his wallet.  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Zorba, stop, what are doing?  You don’t have to buy this…

Z:  Sometimes in life you just have to seize opportunities when they come up.

Me:  But but but – Zorba – what are you doing?!

Z;  Are you sure you like it? 

Me:  of course I do! I love it!  It’s beautiful!!  but you don’t have to do this – what does this mean…?

[chatty pain in the ass shop assistant is blabbering away – I almost smacked her in the chops so Zorba and I could have a moment – after all, this was monumental!]

Zorba:  I think you know what this means.  Will you say yes?

Me [stunned/shocked/screaming inside HOLY COW!!!];  Of course I’d say yes, but you don’t have to do this….

Zorba:  Ti amo, versarmi

Me: … Huh?

Z:  Versarmi

Me [looking confused]:  I’m sorry babe I don’t know what that means….

Z:  Oh sh!t I got it wrong….

Me:  Do you mean ‘sposarmi’ (which means ‘marry me’ in Italian)?

Z:  Yeah! that’s the one!  I’d been practising – daaaamn, can’t believe I got it wrong!

Me:  hahahaahah!  bloody Greeks!  YES!!  [smooch in shop]

Z:  Babe, I was going to ask you in Postiano anyway – and sometimes when opportunities come up, you just have to grab them with both hands! 

Me:  Holy cow!!  Oh my GOD!!  FAR OUT!!!  YIPPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!  OMG

IMG_0343   In Man Fook Jewellery Store in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

And with that, we skipped out of the shop arm in arm, smiling big huge wide smiles, and headed to the restaurant for dinner. I almost tripped about 5 times because I could not stop staring at my ring and wasn’t watching were I was going.

As I wrote in my last blog entry, we ate a fabulously sensational meal, washed it down with two bottles of organic red wine, and then rushed to the airport for our flight to Roma. 

So there you have it! 

I have reminded Zorba that he got out of the proposal lightly – no big planned day, no nervous speech, etc etc.  I have since also reminded him that an engagement ring is usually one month’s (or more) salary – so i get change!!!  Hahaha!  It’s all good!

Now before anyone starts getting excited about a wedding – don’t.  We have always said, well, I have always said, that I want to take the money and run.  So there might not be a big fat Greek wedding….!  We have no idea what we are going to do just yet – just enjoy Italy and enjoy being engaged.

The end.