Tag Archives: life

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The Ritz London – a special birthday celebration for my parents

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to take my parents somewhere special. Sending them to London and taking them around Europe was my way to thank them for all their hard work during my child hood and beyond. They always did everything that they could to make our lives comfortable and to support our goals.

My parents had me at the age of 21 and later had my 3 siblings to take care of so Europe was something they knew they wanted to do later in life. They had 3 children by the time they were my age, so I can imagine how busy they would have been! It’s my turn to repay them for paying for the piano lessons and maths tutoring, taking me to my kiddie basketball games and the countless hours they spent putting together lego, colouring in books and making coloured play dough from scratch! I don’t even think I can come close to repaying them for everything they have done but at least they can experience the London life for the 3 weeks they were here!

Dad had celebrated his birthday in August and mum’s birthday was in October, so I thought it was fitting to take them somewhere extra special to celebrate.

The first restaurant that came to mind was The Ritz London. I have written about The Ritz London in a past post. They  host the most exquisite High Tea that I have ever been to (you can read about my experience here).

One of my inspirations for taking my parents to The Ritz came from a book that my Aunt had told me about. It is called  “1000 things places to see before you die: A Traveler’s Life”. My Aunt (another inspirational women in my life) carries this book with her during her travels and has managed to tick off a chunk of places on the list. Now my parents can tick off  ‘The Ritz London’ from their bucket list too!

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When we first entered The Ritz, we were greeted by the lovely doormen who directed us to the main restaurant. We could hear the piano playing as the doors opened to a well lit foyer. We saw beautifully arranged vintage furniture, antique mirrors and sparkling chandeliers. It was like walking into a European palace. My parents were amazed and after seeing the look on their faces, I knew I had taken them to the right place.

The Ritz London

We sipped champagne and dined on a beautiful three course meal, while enjoying each other’s company. The food was delicious and the service was impeccable. We couldn’t’ have asked for a better dining experience.

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At the end of the night, the waiter brought out a freshly made Victorian sponge filled with fresh fruit and tied with a bow that displayed The Ritz London logo. The waiter lit the candle and my parents made a birthday wish. The cake was packed away in a Ritz box so we could enjoy it the next day. It was such a great night and I’m really happy to have shared this with my husband and my parents.

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What is your favourite birthday location or memory? Comment below and let me know! I’d love to read about it.

Get inspired or get hungry

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St Paul's Cathedral, London

Being a tourist in my “home town”: St Paul’s Cathedral and The Millennium Bridge

On the 27th July, St Paul’s Cathedral bells will ring to mark the royal birth of the Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge who was born to Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and Catherine (aka Kate), the Duchess of Cambridge. As I mentioned in my previous post, this royal baby has had England and the rest of the world in a flurry. People even put money on the name, weight and sex of the baby while others made the journey to London just to get a glimpse of Kate and Will as they exited the hospital with the baby.

St Paul's Cathedral, London
St Paul’s Cathedral, London

I work close to St Paul’s Cathedral. I have walked across the Millennium Bridge and admired the view of the Thames River countless times. When you have lived in an area for a long time (even though you are an expat), you start to lose sight of the small things that makes it unique. You forget that people travel long distances just to get a glimpse of London’s summer.

The view from the Millennium Bridge
The view from the Millennium Bridge

So, during my lunch time, I decided to be a bit of a tourist in my ‘home town’. The area that surrounds St Paul’s Cathedral is charming. There were people enjoying their lunch just outside while others were taking a photo with St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. I spotted a cycling tour that had stopped at the end of the bridge to talk about it’s importance.

London’s Millennium Bridge is the first pedestrian river crossing over the Thames in central London for more than a century. (http://www.londonmillenniumbridge.com)

That is pretty cool isn’t it?

St Paul's Cathedral (and surrounding area), London, UK
St Paul’s Cathedral (and surrounding area), London, UK

I admired St Paul and remembered how beautiful it was when Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana were married there. This happened before I was born but I remember watching the replays when I was a small child. Her Cinderella-like dress, her tiara and long veil still fascinates so many brides and was even used as inspiration (in part) on my wedding day.

There is so much history in London and I plan to spend the rest of the summer learning more about it.

What do you love about your current home town? Please comment below and share with us all.

Get inspired or get hungry

If you want travel or food inspirationsubscribe here, follow me on Facebook and twitter!

I will be blogging every day during the month of July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. If you are interested in generating more traffic for your blog or just having more fun with it, then feel free to join! It’s absolutely free so why not challenge yourself.

The day I turned 30: Dinner at Floga, Santorini

Suddenly 30: Am I supposed to feel different?

I am 30 now…

Am I supposed to feel different?

I do not feel different. I still have a love for travel, culture, fairy tales, European royalty, enchanted Castles and maintain my obsession with food.

I do not think that turning 30 can make a person change overnight. What I do think is that I have changed since moving to London. I stress less. I spend more time with positive people. I laugh more often. I enjoy the little things even more than I used to. I also appreciate all my blessings: my family, my friends, my job opportunities and my chance to experience more of the world. I count my blessings every day.

Life is good and it’s only going to get better!

My lovely husband organised for me to celebrate my 30 years on this earth in 3 countries: Seattle (USA), London (UK) and Santorini (Greece).

Sleepless in Seattle

We arrived in Seattle on a sunny day and went straight to our hotel. We were staying in the centre of the city so it was easy to meet everyone for drinks. We had a good time catching up with friends who had been traveling the East and West Coast and others who were now “local” to Seattle.

Catching up with the bride-to-be on the day before her wedding, Seattle
Catching up with the bride-to-be on the day before her wedding, Seattle

After drinks, a bunch of us went to Anthony’s Pier 66 for my birthday dinner. Anthony’s Pier 66 has amazing waterfront views of Seattle’s Pier. We enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner of oysters, scallops and fish which was only made better by the amazing sunset.

Anthony's Pier 66
Anthony’s Pier 66: oysters, scallops and birthday cake and friends shot (anti clock-wise)

The service at Anthony’s Pier 66 was impeccable. The waiter was so upbeat that you couldn’t help but be upbeat with him! He suggested some great food options and even brought out a cake for me for my birthday! It was a nice surprise!

Living it up in London

How can I not celebrate my birthday in my ‘home’ town? In London, we made cocktails for our guests at our home, followed by dinner at La Farola for some Spanish tapas. I was spoilt with lots of fun and laughter and showered with thoughtful gifts.

My favourite dishes at La Farola: Paella, zucchini flowers, croquettes, sardines on toast.
My favourite dishes at La Farola: Paella, zucchini flowers, croquettes, sardines on toast.

La Farola also has some amazing cocktails so we tried a few martinis and jars of sangria!

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I was lucky to have two birthday cakes: a Hello Kitty cake with a British Flag t-shirt seemed appropriate and a cake specially made for me by my friend Andrea. It had white cream icing on the outside and pink layers of mud cake on the inside! She is a banker but I really think she should start  a food business. Her attention to detail is amazing and the cake was delicious. What do you think of her cake?

My birthday cakes and my presents. I was so spoilt!
My birthday cakes and my presents. I was so spoilt!

When the cakes were brought out, the staff of La Farola dimmed the lights and put on the song ‘Happy Birthday to you’. They had my entire party plus the restaurant guests singing and clapping to the music. It was amazing!

After eating our way through many courses of Spanish tapas, we danced the night away in West London with the rest of our expat friends!

Sunset in Santorini

As part of my birthday present, Rick took me to Santorini. We flew to Santorini on the day of my birthday and had two amazing dinners at Floga and Naoussa Restaurant. I felt blessed to be watching the Santorini sunset with the love of my life.

The day I turned 30: Dinner at Floga, Santorini
The day I turned 30: Dinner at Floga, Santorini

To top it off, I was also receiving messages, texts, emails and letters from loved ones back at home and that made me feel so special. I could not have asked for or dreamed of a better 30th birthday!

My birthday cakes at Floga Restaurant and Naoussa Restaurant
My birthday cakes at Floga Restaurant and Naoussa Restaurant

Where was your favourite birthday location and how was it? Comment below and let me know!

Want to read more about exciting travel adventures?

To continue reading about my Santorini trip, subscribe now and follow me on twitter! I have also finally created a Facebook page so would love it if you like it! Let’s connect!

I will be blogging every day during the month of July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. If you are interested in generating more traffic for your blog or just having more fun with it, then feel free to join! It’s absolutely free so why not challenge yourself.

Muscle Beach, Venice California

California Dreams: why visit Venice Beach California

I have a fascination with California, yes I do! As a child, I would wake up early every Saturday morning to watch California dreams and wonder whether I would ever get the chance to go to this place that seemed to boast continuous sunshine and positively perky people. Of course that was just a children’s TV show, but I do think that the real California life style is much better than the TV show ever depicted.

Venice Beach, California

We walked along Venice Beach and also explored the Venice Board Walk on a 3-wheeled bike so we saw a lot during our visit.

Venice Beach was my absolute favourite place to visit in California as there is something for everyone for everyone.

Why visit Venice Beach

  • Muscle Beach, made famous by the large congregation of body builders and fitness fanatics that make use of the beach-side gym. I especially enjoyed watching them climb the ropes with their bare hands while others did some very challenging (and unthinkable) yoga moves! It made me want to embrace the health and fitness lifestyle.
  • Music surrounds the Venice board walk and forms part of it’s unique environment. There are impromptu musicians entertaining the crowds, fortune readers, mimes and singers. I enjoyed watching the Latin American drummers heat up the beach like habanero peppers! 
  • Art is displayed in many market stalls at the other end of the board walk. You can see African and Latin American influenced paintings. We were not there to buy the paintings but it was wonderful to get a feel of the vibe!
  • The beach itself is a great place for people watching, from surfers to sunbathers, joggers to weight lifters, parents with prams and lovers holding hands. They all had something in common – they were absorbing the electrically, vibrant and absolutely enticing atmosphere!

Muscle Beach, Venice California

Share your experience

Enjoy the photos and let me know what you think in the comments below –  What is your favourite beach and why? Post a link to your post below and share the excitement in the spirit of summer!

Venice Beach, California

Want to read more about exciting travel adventures?

To continue reading about my US trip, click on the subscribe button to the right of this page and follow me on twitter! Let’s connect!

I will be blogging every day during the month of July for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. If you are interested in generating more traffic for your blog or just having more fun with it, then feel free to join! It’s absolutely free so why not challenge yourself.

Join me on the…

Oslo

I flew from London to Oslo for a barbecue!

Hi there! Yes, the title of this post is correct but let me explain why. I turned up on Monday morning (a few weeks ago) and when everyone shared their weekend events, I told them that I had been in Oslo and we had a barbecue. Before I could explain myself, they started to laugh about the “jet-setting Aussie” type who flies all the way to another country just to attend a party, or in my case, a barbecue. By the way, I did that for NYE 2012 so I’m not a stranger to such actions (click here for the post).

After the (friendly) laughter subsided, I explained the reason for my visit. Rick and I had visited our good friends Christel and Eirik, who happened to be Norwegians living in the lovely city of Oslo. If you remember as far back as the London Olympics, they had visited us for a week in London and wanted to show us their home turf (click here and here if you want to read the posts).

I met Christel about 6 years ago when she was studying in Australia. We  met while in kick boxing class, which surprises a lot of people as we do not look like the kick boxing type. Believe me, Christel has a strong kick and so do I! She is one of the nicest people I have met and like a pocket rocket with all the energy that she has. This is one of the reasons why we decided to visit Oslo. We wanted to spend time with Christel and her boyfriend Eirik and to get a feel of the city that they call home.

Oslo

Christel and Eirik were such good hosts. We arrived at 11.30pm on Friday night and they picked us up from the station which is so very nice of them. They made us a delicious meal of Swedish meatballs with gravy, potatoes and vegetables as a midnight snack. We talked for hours and finally went to sleep at 2am – not that you could tell because it was still relatively light outside!

Oslo Opera house

The next morning, we were treated with a traditional Norwegian breakfast of brown cheese, freshly baked baguettes, salami and freshly blended fruit smoothie! This was the fuel that we needed to take a walk around the city of Oslo. We walked on the roof of the Oslo Opera House and sipped beers at the bar of the Oslo pier. The sun was out with full force and the atmosphere was buzzing.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo

We then met up with some of their friends and walked another hour to a sandy beach that lead to the ocean. Eirik took out a disposable barbecue tray and started to make our delicious lunch of cheese burgers and sausages. The sausages were wrapped in lomper (flat potato bread) which I still think about to this day! The bread was thin and flat but slightly springy and smooth on the outside. Add some dried onions, tomato sauce and potato salad and you have yourself one of the tastiest hot dogs you can find! (Does anyone know if you can get them in the UK and where?)

In between bites of food, Christel convinced us to jump into the ocean and go for a swim. We had just experienced 5 minutes of rain and wanted to get in the ocean before the rain returned. The water was cold (15 degrees) yet exhilarating because the waves were slight and the water changed from shallow to deep quite quickly. We had to be careful not to be swept away with the waves (gentle as they were) so I stayed in the shallow end while the others swam to the nearest buoy.

Oslo

At night, Christel and her friends took us out pizza followed by a game of Shuffle Board. Shuffle Board was played in a pub so you can drink your favourite cocktail while playing the game. The shuffle board is sprinkled with sand and the aim of the game is to get your token as close to the edge of the opposite end of the table as possible. It was a close match and competition was fierce but we ended up having a lot of fun!

Oslo

We spent the final day of Oslo waking up late and eating a fresh breakfast of bacon and eggs, fruit smoothie and berries. Christel and Eirik really spoilt us with breakfast! We then enjoyed a barbecue with their friends and saw a glimpse of suburban life in this beautiful city. Their friends were so friendly and made us feel welcome by offering us food and drinks. I can see why Oslo was voted one of the best places to live (2009) - the people are lovely and the city is vibrant!

Have you or would you fly 2 hours to go to a party? If so, when or why? 

If you like this post, please subscribe now and follow me on twitter! My next post will be about the US so stay tuned!

Want to read other people’s adventures in Oslo? Click below.

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6 Things that I wish I had known before becoming an expat

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Hi everyone! I want to share with you a link to my first guest blog post at Expat-Quotes. Here I share my thoughts about the 6 things I wish I had known before becoming an expat. 

If you are thinking of moving offshore, are currently an expat, or are just curious to know why one makes such a decision, then I think that you will want to read this. Please have a read and let me know what you think. It helped me understand my journey and I hope that it helps you too.

Don’t forget to comment, like and share!

Thank you for sharing this amazing adventure with me. If you want to hear about my upcoming US trip, click on the subscribe button and follow me on twitter.

Does anyone know of must eat places in LA, San Francisco and Seattle areas? I’m leaving the shores of Europe/UK for the West Coast!

The passion fruit soufflé at The Ledbury was amazing!

The Ledbury for lunch: tantalise your taste buds

We ate at The Ledbury and sampled a scrumptious selection of dishes!

Let me tell you how the magic happened…

Once upon a time, on a cold London’s day, there were two girls who were having lunch in East London. They were sharing stories about Australia and their amazing experiences in London. They also realised that they shared a love for food and started comparing the restaurants that they were fond of.

Suddenly, one of the girls had a remarkable idea! They both wanted to go to the famous restaurant named The Ledbury. Many of their friends have dined at both the Ledbury and Noma which is the number one restaurant in the world. Some of these people have even dared to say that The Ledbury was better! So out of pure curiosity and yearning for good food… the girls booked their table at The Ledbury months in advance and so begins their food journey…

Now fast forward to when we actually went to The Ledbury. Saturday was by far the coldest day that I have ever experienced in London. It’s as if the artic winds had shifted and pointed in the direction of London. I had my thermals, boots and down jacket ready so I was not afraid of the cold.

Rick and I made our way to Notting Hill where The Ledbury is located. Notting Hill is one of my favourite places in London because it is so picturesque with its tree lined streets and beautiful English style houses. We felt like we were in a Hugh Grant movie as the leaves were various shades of orange and were falling softly from the trees. I love Autumn in London!

When we finally entered The Ledbury, we were welcomed with such warmth. We ordered the set two course lunch, individually opted for an al a carte dessert and a bottle of wine. Like most fine dining restaurants, you were given a complimentary canapé to start with while you’re waiting for your meal. It was foie gras (duck liver paté) in a potato based shell. It was so light and fluffy and absolutely delicious!

My entree was the Ceviche of Scallops with Red Meat Radishes, Seaweed and Frozen English Wasabi. This was one of my favourites as it was light and refreshing. I have started to appreciate Ceviche since my trip to Peru many years ago, so it was nice to sample an English twist to a Peruvian dish. The scallops were so fresh and the radishes balanced the flavours of the seaweed and frozen Wasabi.

My main meal was the Roast Brill with Braised Celery, Smoked Oyster Milk and Crisp Potato. The brill was fresh and the oyster milk gave it such a nice flavour. I enjoyed the crisp potato which was in the shape of spaghetti, but the braised celery was not my favourite part (bear in mind that I dislike the taste of celery).

For dessert, I had the Passion Fruit Soufflé with Sauternes Ice Cream. This was by far the highlight of the day! I admired the fluffy soufflé as the waiters brought it to the table. I was even more impressed when one of the waiters used a spoon to pick up a beautiful presented dollop of cream and oh so effortlessly put the cream into the middle of my soufflé. It was love at first sight and the love affair continued until my very last bite.

We finished the meal with mini cookies and chocolate gnash. It was a perfect end to a delicious meal!

What is your favourite dessert and where did you eat it? Comment below and let me know!

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Here is a close up of the Salt Beef Bagel

A trip down Brick Lane for salt beef bagels

I have a few more travel stories to post but I thought that I could entice you to a salt beef bagel first.

Brick Lane, London, UK

Rick and I spent the weekend in London catching up with friends but a good part of the weekend nursing a cold. We thought that the best way to cure the cold was to leave the comfort of our home and get some fresh air… so we ended up in Brick Lane, East London.

I’ve been to Brick Lane before, primarily to eat Indian food and only ever at night. We had never been to the Brick Lane Market so we thought that this was a great week to check it out. The London air had an Autumn chill but the sky was blue and showed zero chance of rain!

The Brick Lane Market is located in Brick Lane and has a number of amazing food options. There were options for hand-made pulled noodles which are cooked in a delicious soup, middle eastern pastries, sausages and the ever so popular salt beef bagel.

We spotted the salt beef bagel from miles away as it hid behind a line of 20 people. As I walked past the Beigel Bake, I couldn’t resist the allure. Rick and I jumped straight into the queue and with eyes on the prize, proceeded to wait 15 minutes for a salt beef bagel and a chicken bagel.

“I can’t be bothered waiting, this is not my idea of fun” said a young man to his girlfriend standing behind me. His girlfriend turned to him suddenly and with fire in her eyes said “There is a line up for a reason. I am going to eat, whether you eat or not!”…

Here is a close up of the Salt Beef Bagel

She was right! The line up was there for a reason and the reason was to try this delicious bagel filled with warm and tender salt beef (or corned beef as my mum would say)! The bagel was baked fresh on the premise and I could taste the freshness with every bite. It was absolute bagel heaven!

I didn’t just spend my time there eating. I did do a bit of shopping as well. Further down Brick Lane, there are a few boutiques which sell clothing from independent designers. Admittedly, not all the stores were to my liking but I did enjoy exploring the racks of The Laden Showroom; popular for unique clothing made by independent British fashion designers.

The Laden Showroom

Brick Lane was definitely not posh but that’s where it holds it’s charm! And if you don’t like playing chess or shopping at boutiques, I highly recommend going there just for the Salt Beef Bagel!

What is your favourite market and why?

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Hope that you’re having a great week!

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Cagliari: ancient architecture and 280 flavours of gelati

Do you like gelati? 

Then what better place to have gelati than at Isola de Gelato, which has bragging rights to 280 variations of gelati!  I went into the store and I must admit that I could not count 280 variations as they must alternate these variations from time to time. Nevertheless, we came, we saw, we ate gelati! And lots of it!

There were so many flavours of gelati that I was giddy with excitement. I finally selected the Bounty flavour coupled with pistaccio on a waffle cone (I came back for more later that day). It was a dream and perfect for a hot, summer’s day.

The food

We were in Cagliari for only a few hours and admittedly the gelati was one of my favourite parts, but Cagliari does have a lot more to offer.

We sat in a traditional trattoria sampling the Sardinian diet of grilled meats and gnocchi stuffed with potato  I couldn’t help but check out everyone else’s meals. The Sardinian diet seemed to consist of something similar to surf and turf; grilled meats (all kinds) with prawns and fish on the side! They had pasta or gnocchi as sides.

Sunday seemed to be family day. I was  impressed by the fact that on a Sunday morning, the entire family and extended family appeared to be eating together in the restaurant – from the babies to the grandparents.

Cagliari Architecture

I didn’t spend enough time in Cagliari to get a complete feel of the place, but I do know that between 1.30pm to 4.30pm, the city becomes a ghost town. Shops close for an Italian style “siesta” and the streets are ghostly silent.

If I were to visit Cagliari again, I would visit the beaches, known for beach parties in summer, crystal blue waters and long stretches of coastline.

I’d also spend more time wandering around the ancient city walls that used to surround the city.

I’d also visit the Salt flats which are home to pink flamingos (I only saw them by tour bus and they were such pretty creatures)!

The architecture screams old town but with a modern twist. What do you think?

View of Cagliari!

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Gulf of Orosei

Sardinia: reach untouched beaches by boat only (Italy’s best kept secret)

Do you want to swim in water so clear and so blue that you will feel like you are looking through glass? 

Do you want to jump into the Ocean and not worry about sea creatures that may linger below?

This is our experience in the Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia.

Italy’s best kept secret – Gulf of Orosei

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Sardinia was never on my list of places to see. But one day, I read my lonely planet guide of Italy and I fell in love with the fact that Sardinia is relatively undisturbed by tourists and maintains its old world charm.

Preparing to take a boat at the Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia

We stayed in a small village named Cala Gonone, which is near the Gulf of Orosei. My friends and I decided that the best way to see the coastline was by boat. We booked ourselves in for a full day boat tour, slopped on some sunscreen and slapped on a hat and away we went.

The sun was shining and our boat was running full speed as we left the port. I remember looking back and seeing the beautiful colour of the water and then looking down to see the bottom of the ocean – it was that clear.

Leaving the port as we begin our tour along The Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia

As we explored the coastline, we looked up at the cliffs and inside caves that contained water so clear that you could see the colourful fish swimming beneath the boat.

The Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia

Every now and then, the driver would stop and let us explore the pebbled beaches that were only accessible by boat. The pebbles feel funny against your feet at first but after awhile, you get used to it.

Relaxing at Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia

Rick and I were happy to just sit and relax in the sun before taking a dip in the water. I found myself paddling on my back to soak in the atmosphere and then paddling around as I admired the cliffside. I kept looking down at my hands and feet which I could see clearly through the water. I felt like I was swimming in a big bath tub that was the Ocean! I’ve never seen water so clear and so blue, even during my trip to Portugal.

I couldn’t get enough of the pebbled beaches of Gulf of Olbia, Sardinia

Rick swam along with me and also found the caves really interesting. He explored the inside of caves along the pebbled beaches; caves which were set within the cliff side and untouched by tourists.

Exploring the caves at Gulf of Orosei, Sardinia

One of my favourite parts of the experience was when the boat driver ancored the boat in the middle of the ocean and told us to jump out. My friends and I were uncertain at first, then thought “What the heck, we’re only in Sardinia once!” So we looked down into the ocean, closed our eyes and took a leap!

Well… that’s what they did anyway. I needed some coercing but finally made it. I swam a good 5 minutes before getting tired. The water was so refreshing and it was a great feeling to know that the only creatures beneath your feet were the tiny schools of fish. It was quite a freeing experience!

Rick and I jumped off the boat to swim in the ocean

We really enjoyed our time at the Gulf of Orosei because of the pebbled beaches, beautiful cliff sides and clear blue waters of the ocean. In my next post, I’ll compare the pebbled beaches of the Gulf of Orosei to the golden sand beaches of Costa Verde.

Do you know of any other best kept secrets in Europe?

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