Beach Eats at Gold Coast, Australia by da-AL

My new Gold Coast pal!

The city of Gold Coast is part of the Australian state of Queensland. Visitors flock there as much for its sunny subtropical temps as for its surfing beaches, architecture, theme parks, nightlife, and rainforest hinterland.

We stopped there to visit wonderful relatives, a cousin my husband hadn’t seen since he was a child, along with her marvelous family who we met for the first time. Little did we know, after seeing New Zealand’s Auckland / Rotorua / Redwoods / Huka Falls / Craters of the Moon / Waitomo Glowworms Caves / Taupo / Pirongia / Hamilton Gardens — that Australia also had so much to offer! Starting with Tai Chi in Gold Coast, birds of Australia Part 1 and Part 2great Gold Coast views , and some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, fun with Rita Rigby, and the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there.

From any angle, the city skyline to Gold Coast is wonderful…

Such stunning scenery (including my honey!).
Khashayar rests after a shoreline bike ride with Cousin Mark.

All the food we ate in Australia was tasty! For instance, we enjoyed an exceptional meal on the beach, at Rick Shores’ Restaurant. In addition, we were given great service everywhere. Here’s the menu just to give you an idea of prices (here’s a link for exchange rates) — keep in mind that prices pretty much always include sales tax and that tipping is not customary there…

This fine dining was worth the splurge.
Page 2 of Rick Shores Restaurant menu.
Gold Coast beach behind our dear family.
The food looked (and tasted!) too good to wait to snap photos until after we’d dug in.

Does your city have a mascot?

Family, Vegemite, and Tai Chi in Gold Coast, Australia by da-ALi

Our first evening in Gold Coast, Australia!

Australia is a quick flight from New Zealand. Getting there marked the second half of our vacation, which began with Auckland + Rotorua + New Zealand’s Redwoods + Huka Falls + Craters of the Moon + Waitomo Glowworms Caves + Taupo + Pirongia + Hamilton Gardens, as well as the birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2 + Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast + enjoyed delicious meal on the beach + saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary + had fun with Rita Rigby + met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there.

We landed in Gold Coast to visit cousins who I’d heretofore not had the pleasure of meeting. Lovely inside and out, they were generous to us in every way!

What took me so long to meet these lovely family members?!
Good food, greater people!
Some of my Australian family is striped!

The following morning, a delicious breakfast awaited us — including yeast extract to spread on our buttered toast. Brands for the ‘acquired taste’ can be a heated topic: Australians generally vote for Vegemite, New Zealanders like Our Mate, folks in other places are partial to Marmite or Promite or Bovril or Cenovis or…

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After all the eating and relaxing, it was time to get moving!

Tai chi is healthy for all ages!

Admirably fit and flexible Rita (the beautiful lady with her arm around my waist) introduced me to a free tai chi class at the local park. If you’re ever in the area, Robina Tai Chi Club Secretary/Treasurer Yulan deSalve assured me that all are welcome to email her at yulandesalvo@gmail.com for particulars. Ask her nicely, and she might demonstrate the sitting koala pose!

Geckos are common guests in Gold Coast, Australia.

What animals do you have near your home that are unique to your area?

Awe for Auckland, New Zealand by da-AL

Too little time for da-AL to discover all of Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Mount Eden is the place to go for a fantastic full-circle view of Auckland, where my husband and I began and ended our visit to New Zealand. (Next we’d be off to Rotorua, then New Zealand’s Redwoods and Huka Falls, plus Craters of the Moon and Waitomo Glowworms Caves, then Taupo and Pirongia, as well as Hamilton Gardens. Later in Australia’s Gold Coast, we visited family, admired the birds of Australia Part 1 of 2 plus Part 2 of 2, then we marveled at the Spectacular Views in and Around Gold Coast, enjoyed a delicious meal on the beach, saw some wild things and cute things at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, had fun with Rita Rigby, and met the beasts of Brisbane and the beauty there.

The site here in Auckland is actually three cinder cones, two of them filled in by the last one. Auckland is a lovely city filled with great restaurants with menus from all over the world — and great independent bookstores!

Time Out Bookstore, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. Auckland has some great independent bookstores, like this one!

Claire and Sam (our hostess and her golden retriever), along with her young neighbor (and the darling girl’s black dog), were all very welcoming. To stay at Claire’s lovely B&B, email her at duncan5@xtra.co.nz or call her at 0274512691

Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL. Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL.

So much to do in too little time …

da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Next, we visited the rousing city of Rotorua

Have you visited a crater?

Easy! Yummy! Healthy! Brown Rice Corn Island with Seafood by K. Parsi

Healthy eating is fun with recipes that don’t require a lot of skill and time, yet can even wow guests. Famed chef Jacques Pépin inspired my husband to create this one…

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing
Healthy cooking can be simple.

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing

(serves about 8)

Read this recipe all the way through before you shop for ingredients and cook. It involves four cooking steps: a) rice, b) seafood, c) sauce, and d) plating.

Step A: Rice

1 medium diced onion

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

3 cups brown rice

1 bunch (about 1 1/2 cup) chopped green onions

1 cup corn kernels

3 cups water

3 cups fish or chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon saffron

1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)

In a 5-quart pot, sauté onion in olive oil until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add brown rice and sauté until rice is covered with oil.

Add green onions to rice mixture, and sauté for another two minutes.

Add corn, water, broth, salt, pepper, and saffron.

Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring to avoid a crust forming on the bottom.

Reduce heat to simmer, add cheese, and cook for half an hour, or until rice softens.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Step B: Seafood Stuffing

1 medium julienned onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

2 pounds mixed seafood (e.g., shrimp, calamari, and scallops)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 cup white cooking wine

Using a medium saucepan, sauté onion in coconut oil, until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add seafood and sauté for 5 minutes. Add cooking wine, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and cook for five more minutes on medium heat.

Remove the seafood mixture with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Seafood will be used during plating, in Step D. Set aside juice for use in the sauce, which you’ll make next, during Step C.

Step C: Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white flour

6 cups milk

6 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In the same saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, stirring quickly to avoid lumps.

Whisk in milk.

Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil.

Take off heat and set aside for plating.

Tip: If you get flour lumps, you can put the mixture in a blender before adding the mushrooms.

Step D: Plating

Parsley or chives for garnish

Butter the sides of a bowl.

Add a few spoonfuls of rice mixture to fill about 1/3 of the bowl.

Press rice down into the sides, creating a cavity in the middle of the bowl.

Fill to 3/4 full with seafood.

Cover with more rice, and gently pack it down.

Place a plate over the bowl, and flip them quickly, to get the rice onto the plate. Carefully unmold the rice by removing the bowl.

If your guests are not ready, you can place all the dishes in a 180-degree oven to keep them warm. Dishes may be kept there for up to half an hour. Any longer and the food will start to get too dry.

When ready to serve, gently spoon sauce around the ‘rice island.’

Garnish with parsley or chives.

Tip: If you have enough bowls, you can leave them over the rice plates until you’re ready to add the sauce around.

Enjoy!

Ancient and Modern: Lovely León, Spain by da-AL

Photo of da-AL at León book fair.
Rain can’t dampen the beauty of León’s historic district — especially when it’s got a late night book fair!

I love Spain! It’s no accident that one of my soon-to-be self-published novels is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.”

A dream to sightsee on foot, León, Spain, was the next to last stop of a fun-filled vacation that my husband and I began with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona and then a stop in wonderful Huesca. We crossed the French border into pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port, enchanting Espelette, and phenomenal French Basque Country cities Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz. Upon our return to Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián, and then the breathtaking city of Bilbao.

León, founded in 29 B.C., has so much fascinating architecture that the two days we visited weren’t enough to see everything. León’s gothic Santa María de León Cathedral was constructed mostly during 1205 to 1301, its north tower and cloister during the 14-century, and its south tower in 1472. Ever see Mother Mary pregnant? (Tap on photos to see them bigger and their captions.)

It’s an important cathedral on The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) religious pilgrimage route.

Architect Antoni Gaudí welcomes company. He’s best known for Barcelona’s Sagrada Família Cathedral. In León, he designed Casa Botines from 1891 to 1892. In 1929, it became a bank but has since reverted to its original appearance. Downstairs featured a display of Francisco Goya’s political cartoons.

Photo of da-AL with employee and Susana, owner of 'a comer' restaurant.
Susana and her employee cook with love — ‘a comer’ restaurant is a must-eat-at!

Spain’s homestyle food (unlike typical restaurant fare most anywhere) is loaded with delicious veggies. I swooned when we happened into a tiny eatery that cooked like I was visiting someone’s gourmet granny — we ate there twice! Every single morning, ‘a comer’ take out restaurant owner Susana shops for the best of what’s in season, then cooks a new menu from scratch — thank you from the bottom of my stomach, querida Susana!

Photo of hosts Marco Tsitselis and Mariu Alvarez Garcia.
We’re so glad Marco and Mariu rented us a lovely room!

Our hosts, Marco and Mariu, made our stay at their home extra cozy and our visit to León extra memorable — many thanks to both of them!

It was time to hit the highway to Madrid!…

Breathtaking Bilbao, Spain by da-AL

The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, features many American artists, from Frank Geary’s architecture to Jeff Koon’s “Puppy” flower sculpture.

Sure Frank Gehry’s amazing architecture at the Guggenheim Museum helped put a failing Bilbao, Spain back on the map. Front, back, in, and out the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, turns perceptions upside down and inside out (tap or click each photo for more info)…

However, art and art-worthy architecture abound everywhere in Bilbao.

There's much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.
There’s much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.

Along the way to the museum, we stopped to see Azkuna Zentroa. Built in 1909, it now houses a building within a building balanced on unusual columns.

It’s part of the Spain half of Basque Country. That means that both Spanish and Euskara are spoken. Good food abounds, including pintxos, Northern Spain’s version of small delicious plates of tapas.

Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.
Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.

Our airbnb hostesses Iciar Ruiz (who owns her own design business) and her daughter, Alba, helped us decide what to see.

Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.
Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.

My love and I had just left the beaches of San Sebastián, toured the phenomenal French side of Basque Countrywonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. Our adventure started with beautiful Barcelona. There was more for us to see…

 

Huntington Library, Art, and Gardens by da-AL

da-AL at The Huntington, sitting on a bench in rose garden

What better way is there to celebrate a special occasion than with an all-day excursion of gorgeous weather, strolling an array of gardens that span rainforest to desert and Japanese to Australian to more, seeing the worlds’s stinkiest (and amusingly phallic) plant, eating international fare, admiring fine art museums, and ending it all with a high tea?

My honey and I spent our special day at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens (a collections-based educational and research institution) located in San Marino, California. Tap photos for captions…

da-AL and her honey having high tea at The Huntington

What’s your favorite way to celebrate a special day?