Monday, 25 May 2020

Holidays in the Sun? Our guide to a holiday at home

We have a holiday booked for late September, the holiday of a lifetime! We will be flying over to Las Vegas, to retake our wedding vows in the Elvis chapel. Then we will make our way to Los Angeles, and take a cruise up to San Francisco.  We planned it last year and are going with friends.

The only problem is......

I have been giving much thought to the subject of a holiday at home this summer. If we can't do our little tour, maybe the tour could come to us? I was giving some thought to the things I like about the various places we've been. In Paris, the croissant for breakfast and the fine dining and great wines at diner, the little custard tarts you get in Lisbon. The champagne of Epernay. The cerveza and tapas of Barcelona. The moule and the beers of Brussels. The freshly grilled fish of Biarritz (the last place we went before the lockdown). With a little imagination, surely we can do this at home? Please note, this isn't a blog of ideas for a holiday in lockdown with your kids.

There is also the cultural aspect. On holiday, we always take in a gallery or two, do a bit of sightseeing and maybe watch some music or whatever the local culture is. It got me thinking. What films, documentaries or other TV/video/youtube would make one most encapsulate the culture of a nation and be worth watching? Some of the film recommendations, you'll have to pay a few pennies for, but it is far cheaper than the airfare! I think three days of Travel documentaries would be a bit dull, so I've tried to mix it all up a bit.

So here is my plan for a long weekend away in my own front room (and garden).

Saturday - Monte Carlo.
I've always been fascinated by Monte Carlo, since seeing the film Monte Carlo or Bust. My good friend Luke Albanese will recall how we used to play 'Monte Carlo Rally' in the back garden as kids, in tribute to this. We'd all choose a car and run as fast as we could in circles, skidding in the mud, until one day Luke's wheelspin ended with him landing in a muddy puddle in his new coat. No more Monte Carlo, but as a seven year old, it was a film that really sparked my imagination.

It is one place I've never been, but it would be on my bucket list, if I had such a thing.

So back to the plan. We'd start our holiday in style. We'd get up and have a champagne breakfast, with croissants and fresh strawberry jam. Once that had been polished off, we'd start to immerse ourselves in the culture and watch Monte Carlo rally again.

Once we were suitably in the mood, I would bring us to lunch. I had a look at the website for Maison Du Caviar, one of the better restaurants. For 32 Euro's you can get this.
As Clare is a pescatarian, the blini and Smoked Salmon look good to start, followed by the sea bream. Maybe we'd skip dessert.  A nice bottle of good French wine to wash it down would be very pleasant, after all, we are on holiday!

I find it quite inspiring to look at menus from good restaurants for ideas. I generally prefer to try out the restaurant first, then see how close I can get to recreating their finest dishes. A good restaurant pays close attention to detail and the flavours are not overpowering. One of the mistakes us wannabe cooks make is we over-egg the pudding. It is always good to simplify, but also to note the little touches.

French cooking done well is a marvel to behold. There is a certain ceremony, theatre and art to it. I do miss it and that is the element that you can't recreate, but maybe we'll put our glad rags on for this. 

For a post dejeunnere entertainment, maybe watch Grand Prix from 1966 with James Garner, The picture was photographed in Super Panavision 70 by Lionel Lindon, and presented in 70mm Cinerama in premiere engagements. Its unique racing cinematography is one of the main draws of the film. The film includes real-life racing footage and cameo appearances by drivers including Formula One World Champions Phil Hill, Graham Hill, Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt and Jack Brabham. Other drivers who appeared in the film include Dan Gurney, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Richie Ginther, Joakim Bonnier, Bruce McLaren and Jo Siffert.

As this may not be to Clare's taste, if we are feeling silly Herbie goes to Monte Carlo.  I used to love the Herbie films. It would be interesting to see how they have aged. Maybe we could watch both!

That takes us to diner. I had a quick shufti at the Restaurant Joel Rubichon for inspiration.
To be civilised, we'd start with a nice G&T. To eat? The Scallops look like a winner to start. The Royal Spiny Lobster on a chick pea bed looks good for a main. As to the dessert, Maybe we could try a crème Brule, if I could get hold of a blow lamp, and finish off with some good cheeses. A full bodied French wine would be great to wash it all down.

As to the evenings entertainment. I think a nice playlist of maybe some Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Brel and the like. I'm not really a massive fan of French music, but we have time, so I guess that this is the time to check some of it out!

Sunday - Mexico.
The great thing about this weekend away is that distance is no problem. I've always fancied a little trip to Mexico. We stopped their briefly passing through a few years ago on a cruise from Cuba. It was lovely, but we didn't scratch the surface.

Breakfast -

The Mexican Chipotle and sweet potato Eggs Benedict looks pretty good to me. Maybe a Marguarita to wash it down.

To get us in the mood for some Mexican culture, we'll watch "Hecho en Mexico (Made in Mexico)", which is a highly recommended introduction to Mexican culture.

Lunch -
Tacos for lunch. These are always fun. Maybe washed down with a couple of beers. You can pick Corona lager up at the moment very cheap (can't think why). Taco's are easy to make and tasty.

For our afternoon's entertainment, I decided to go with Mexico's finest guitarist Carlos Santana. They really are an extraordinary band. I felt a bit of time travel back to 1970 would be order of the day!

There is no greater joy in life than just kicking back and listening to great music.

This takes us up to dinner. My experience of Mexican food is pretty much flavoured by Mestizo in Euston. I think that it would  be fun to do a take on their Mexican Tapas and the Prawns in Tamarind Sauce. If our meat eating friends were joining us, I may well try the Shank of Lamb in Mexican Sauces and some refried beans.  I am sure a few more tequila based cocktails would be in order.

As I know nothing about Mexican cinema, I googled to see the best films and found this list. I had a look and decided that this looked the most fun.

Now I'm assuming its a long weekend, like today, we have Monday to play with. I thought long and hard about where we should go. We've been to Europe and we've been to The America's. So where to next? It was a toss up between India, South Korea, Japan or Australia. I ruled out India, as I really think that you can't have proper India food without a proper Naan and we haven't got a Tandoori oven. South Korea was tempting, after the Oscars, the film making has been in vogue, but to be honest, I know little about the cuisine and when I did look, I felt that I didn't really know how much of it should taste, so there was plenty of room for getting it wrong. As one of my daughters has a deep love of Japanese culture, it was really tempting, but I figured that it would be her choices. As I am half Aussie, I ended up with an Aussie day.

Monday -

When we were in Sydney a couple of years ago, we discovered the joys of a Bills Breakfast.

I'd do my take on Bills Full Aussie - full Aussie - scrambled eggs, sourdough toast, cumin roast tomato, herbed garlic mushrooms, pork, chilli and fennel sausage, bacon. For Clare, I'd swap the Bacon for smoked Salmon and a Linda McCartney sausage for a porky one. Once that was polished off, a chilled morning.

The Aussie film industry has made some fantastic movies and there are some great bands. I think I'd probably settle for reading the papers whilst listening to Today Wonder by Aussie Legend Ed Kuepper, to get the day going. IMHO, this is the best Aussie Album of the lot.

Having had a large breakfast, I think we'd go for a late lunch/early dinner in true Aussie style with a Barbeque and a selection of their finest beers and wines. Now if you want to do an Aussie barbie properly, be careful. I did a quick search and this article came top.   I've been to a few Aussie Barbies over the years and I've got to say that the rules are simple, if everyone eats and drinks too much, they go home happy. We have two Webbers (Charcoal Barbie grills). One for meat and one for non meat. If you have fussy veggies, that is the only way to go and you really don't want sausages to be tinged with fishy smells.

My minimum requirements are
Sausages, burgers, Chicken (pre cooked and finished on the grill) with optional steak/lamb kebabs.

Salmon, King Prawns, Tuna (seared on the outside, pink in the middle use thick cuts).

Veggie Sausages/Burgers (Linda McCartney are good), Haloumi kebabs, Marinated Aubergine and Courgette skewers, Mushrooms and pineapple.

A few years ago, my cousin, who is backwoodsman Aussie came for a barbie. He was quite amazed that we did such things in London. He was equally surprised by just how tasty some of the Sausages from Boucherie Gerard were. I think he initially thought that us drinking red wines rather than Castlemaine 4X was sacrilege, but by the end of the evening he'd got the idea. I think he appreciated that as the night time temperature was not 40 degrees like Townsville, wine was not such a bad idea. Cultural appropriation is not always such a terrible thing.

 As it starts to chill outside, we'd move inside. There are so many movies to watch that it is hard to know where to start. There is a pretty good list here.  I'd recommend Walkabout and Muriels wedding, but my favourite Aussie film doesn't feature. It is Last Cab to Darwin.

So those are my choices. What are your ideas for your long weekend at home?

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