Author Archives: Where's Zoe Now?

About Where's Zoe Now?

Late-20s Australian working in Italy, blogging about travel+food+daft adventures.

Postcard from the Dragon’s Back and Shek O, Hong Kong: another side of the island


Click on any photo to enlarge

Hello from Hong Kong! I’m here for a few days on my way back to Italy from Australia, and it has been an excellent stop over. While here, I have been following a new year diet of large meals plus multiple snacks every day (diiiiiim suuuuuum) but today I temporarily tore myself away from the food to go hiking.

Yes, hiking in Hong Kong. I didn’t realize you could do that, either.

The Dragon’s Back ridge is on the eastern end of Hong Kong island, and the hiking trail that runs across it is super popular, for good reason. On a clearer day, you’d get views across to the massive apartment buildings of Kowloon, but even on a hazy day like today I saw smaller islands dotting the bay, quiet beaches and granite boulders. (I also saw a couple wearing broad-brimmed sun hats walking the opposite direction to me, and I couldn’t resist saying “hi” to them, knowing exactly what accent they’d reply with; it’s pretty easy to spot Australians from a distance once you know the tells.)

At the southern end of the trail, I hopped on the bus to Shek O, a beachside town that at this time of year was mostly host to couples taking engagment and wedding photos next to the ocean swirling against the shore.

PS: More postcards from


Practial notes for future reference: I followed these very useful directions to walk the trail north to south, starting at Chai Wan MTR station. The only thing I would add is that the walk along the road after you’ve left the cemetery isn’t looooong but the trail head isn’t quite as close as I would have guessed — you can’t miss the trailhead though, so just keep walking.

The trail over the ridge is quite exposed to sun, you’ll want to wear sunscreen and carry plenty of water. There’s nowhere on trail to get water. I was there on a warm winter’s day and I wish I’d brought a full litre of water rather than 500 ml.

I found myself walking against the flow of traffic on trail, not sure if that was because of my timing or because more people start at the southern end and walk northwards. I did the trail on a Monday, it was certainly populated, but not ridiculously so. The weekend might be a different matter…

When you get to the southern end of the trail, there are bus stops for buses to Shek O and Shau Kei Wan MTR station. While Shek O is within walking distance of the southern trailhead, it’s along a winding road without shoulders much of the way so you’re better off catching a bus.

Advertisements

A photo a day in December: days 26-31


Click on any image to enlarge

Happy new year! I am chilling out at my parent’s house, having stayed up until 2 last night and then driven the 400-ish km from Albany to Perth today — in fairness, I only drove half of that, but at any rate I am cactus. Also, I never got around to taking a photo on the 27th, so I only have 5 photos to finish off the photo a day  challenge…

  • Perth skyline. I would love to know what the story is about the vacant block I took the photo from: it’s been empty since I was a kid but it must be worth an absolute fortune;
  • A paperbark tree near Ocean Beach in Denmark;
  • Rubbish bin, park bench, and very bright shed in Kojonup;
  • Rocks and the ocean at Cosy Corner beach, near Albany;
  • Albany itself — or at least, Middleton beach.

So there we have my 30 photos in 31 days. Actually, I took 213 photos in 31 days, most of those with the hope of getting a good shot to post here. (And, ok, some dorky selfies.) I definitely wouldn’t have taken so many photos if I weren’t challenging myself like this (neurotic over-achievers represent!) and I definitely got some decent shots I wouldn’t otherwise have, so I’m calling this photo-a-day malarky a success.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

A photo a day in December: days 21-25

Click on any image to enlarge

Happy Christmas, if you celebrate it. As promised, some photos with actual sunshine and blue skies! And more cookie photos, because I am essentially a one-trick pony.

  • I believe these trees are called flame trees, at any rate they’re rather festive;
  • Pretty sure my grandparents have the best bathroom wallpaper;
  • Yeah, cookies, I know;
  • Graffiti-covered fence;
  • “Peace”.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

A photo a day in December: days 16-20

Click on any photo to enlarge

I’m currently sitting in Malpensa airport, where I arrived ridiculously far in advance of my flight. (Thanks to the bus times, it was that or a nerve-wrackingly tight schedule.) At least it means I get time to post my next five photos…

  • A bookshop which I have never actually been into but whose window I admire all the time;
  • There’s a boring and obvious joke to be made here about “I took a self portrait!!!” which I am not too dignified to make;
  • The view from the bus window this morning — I am so glad to be going to Australia and summer;
  • Cool architecture at the back of the Ospedale Oftalmico;
  • The river Po on Sunday afternoon in the sunshine and haze.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

A photo a day in December: days 11-15


Click on any photo to enlarge

It’s been COLD!!! here in Turin these past few days. At least, cold for Turin — temperatures near freezing, and lots of fog to keep you feeling nice and damp and clammy. Ugh. Makes for some atmospheric photos of the bare trees in the park, though.

On days 11-15, I took photos of:

  • The park at night. I had spent the entire walk from the train station to my house trying to get a good photo of the Christmas lights in the city centre; every photo I took was vaguely unsatisfying and I just wanted to get home and have a hot drink. On impulse, I snapped a shot in the park, it was the best photo I took all evening;
  • Another photo of cookies: my life these days is basically work/try to get a decent photo each day/bake cookies because why not, it’s nearly Christmas;
  • Cute street art, awwwww;
  • The fencing near the entrance to the Royal Palace is nicely dramatically lit from below;
  • Pretty sure loose-leaf tea, a fancy-looking cookie, a book to read, and a journal should win me instagram-bingo, right?

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

A photo a day in December: days 6-10

 Click on any photo to enlarge

I am rather excited that a) I actually did another 5 days of my photo-a-day challenge, and b) I found some colourful things to take pictures of!

In days 6-10, we have:

  • “Superfood salad”, aka brussel sprouts, pomegranate and hazelnuts. (It’s based loosely on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Before serving I added apple and a vinaigrette with olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and chili powder.)
  • The skating rink in Piazza Carlo Alberto;
  • A tin of home made cookies;
  • Bark and lichen — ooh nature; and
  • Possibly the coolest shop decoration ever: they have covered the entire store front in a patchwork knitted/crocheted blanket:
    Shop front with knitted decoration

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

A photo a day in December: days 1-5

Click on any photo to enlarge

Obviously the smart thing to do in the month when the days are shortest is to challenge yourself to take a photo a day. Who even needs natural light anyway? (My ancient phone camera. That’s who needs natural light to function. I really don’t know why I thought I should do this in December.)

My plan is to post the photos to my blog every few days to take advantage of fear of public shame to avoid just accidentally photographing the inside of my handbag and calling it a day.

In days 1-5, we have:

  • A mirror selfie, as taken by someone who doesn’t want her face on her blog;
  • A grey Saturday morning;
  • Photographic proof that the houseplant Mum gave me in late October is still alive(!);
  • Whoops I didn’t remember to take any photos during daylight hours… Um well ok here’s a candle if I put on a sepia filter it looks kinda alright; and
  • A sunset with the Moon and Monviso –I had to take this one quickly because it involved opening the window at work on a cold afternoon.

PS: You can check out my other posts from the challenge here

Words I never realized were Australianisms until I left Australia

Advertising Tomato Sauce
“Advertising Tomato Sauce” by Michael Coghlan is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I’m not surprised that some Italians have trouble with my accent — after all, Italian is all about the beautiful distinct vowels, and I’m not sure vowels even exist in Australian English. (Is a vague “uh” noise a vowel? Because in Australia, it is EVERY VOWEL.)

What throws me off is when I’m talking to another English speaker and they look at me oddly and I realize… pretty speccy (meaning, “quite impressive”) isn’t actually a standard English idiom.

So here’s a list of some other I-never-knew-they-were-Australianisms. With the disclaimer that probably a lot of these are also used in New Zealand… (But then, it’s my patriotic duty as an Australian to claim all of NZ’s best stuff as coming from Australia.)

  • Doona for duvet
  • Yummo! which is what you say to small children when trying to convince them they really do like the food they’ve been given
  • Op shop for charity shop/thrift store
  • Bottle shop is where you buy alcohol — what do other countries even call this? I’m guessing not “bottle shop” and definitely not the standard abbreviation, bottle-o.
  • Maccas for McDonalds
  • Gumboots for Wellington boots/rain boots
  • CBD for city centre/downtown
  • Arvo for afternoon — IN MY DEFENCE… I did realize it wasn’t standard English, but I had this idea that at least some British English dialects used it
  • Glad Wrap for clingfilm/Saran Wrap
  • Heaps for lots (“Thanks, that’s heaps” to the person dishing up your dinner)/very (“That’s heaps good”)
  • Classic! an exclamation meaning that something is particularly amusing
  • Tomato sauce for ketchup. To this day, I can never remember how to ask in Italian for tomato sauce on my burger because I know the Italian word is the same as the English but then I blank on what the word is in everyone else’s English
  • Bring-a-plate for bring-and-share/potluck
  • Rockmelon for cantaloupe
  • Singlet for… a sleeveless undershirt but I just remembered having a massive discussion recently about what those things are called in other Englishes and now I’m not brave enough to offer a translation
  • Texta for felt-tip pen
  • Milo is a chocolate malt drink. It isn’t actually an Australianism: it also exists in (I’ve been told) Ghana and Malaysia, but not Britain or America, oddly enough.
  • Cheers big ears… Honestly I’m not sure anyone really says this in Australia either

Postcard from Dijon

(Click on any photo to enlarge.)

I was in Dijon in October for a conference. All I knew about the city before I went was the story from some friends about how they’d been on a roadtrip in France and ended up spending the night in a cheap hotel on the outskirts of Dijon, where instead of a reception desk you were supposed to collect your keys via some kind of vending machine arrangement(!) and the room had bunk beds(!!) (If I’m remembering their stories correctly, this was also the trip they camped on the nature strip in a supermarket carpark in the north of France, so their time in Dijon was actually pretty luxurious.)

While it’s fair to say I went to Dijon with zero expectations, what I discovered there was a fascinating mix of gothic and renaissance buildings. And unlike many towns where the historical centre is a few streets surrounded by 1960s concrete blocks, Dijon came through WW2 with little damage to its buildings and the centre is large and well-preserved, perfect for wandering around on a sunny autumn afternoon.

PS: More postcards from


Practical information for future reference: Dijon is 2 hours by regional train from Lyon, which is a major transport hub (from Turin I travelled via Lyon), or 1.5 hours by TGV from Paris.

Lake at Avigliana

I turned 30 and the world didn’t even end*

*yet. (Remember when the most outrageous thing to happen in the world was that some famous food blog posted a bizarre article about fairy bread? Yeah, those were the days.)

A few weeks ago, it was my 30th birthday, and I fully intended to write something wise… well ok, something thoughtful… at least something not stupid about leaving my 20s. And then I was busy, and then I couldn’t be bothered, and now it’s Thanksgiving in America so I’m going to steal their holiday idea and write a list-post of things I’m grateful for about my birthday.

  • I was too busy to write, because my family came to visit. They are total weirdos (where do you think I get it from?) and I love them.
  • My sister is as lazy as I am, which makes her easy to entertain. Case in point: before she arrived, we talked about maybe going to Sicily for a few days while she was here. “Ehh, it’s kinda far,” we said. “Let’s go somewhere we can get to by train. How about Rome?” And then we said, “Yeah, but Rome we’d really have to make a long weekend of, how about somewhere in Liguria? We could even just go on Saturday morning and come back Sunday night.” And then, “The coast is nice and all, but the mountains are closer and we don’t have those in Australia.” At which point, we looked at the weather forecast, decided that up in the mountains would be too cold, and said, “How about a day trip to Sacra di San Michele? At least we’ll get a good view to the mountains there.” And then we overslept that morning, and went to Avigliana for the afternoon, and took a stroll along the lake (pictured above).
  • I also had a fantastic birthday brunch — I think the last time I organized a birthday party was my 18th, because frankly everything about planning a party makes me want to hide under a blanket and never come out, but in this case I had the best time. We had pancakes and shakshuka and fruit salad and an amazing coconut cake made by my friend A who was very gracous about me getting dessicated coconut all over her carpet when I blew out the candles.
  • I decided to do pancakes at least partly because I knew that at some point I’d appreciate the excuse to take a break in the kitchen, facing a wall and not talking to anyone while flipping pancakes. (Introverrrrrrt.) I am so grateful that I am so much better than I used to be at working out how to do things in a way that works for me.
  • Also, while I hate planning parties, I am grateful for the warm fuzzy feeling of seeing people talking and laughing together and knowing that I’d contributed to making that possible.
  • Finally — since this has already taken a turn for the corny and there’s no retreating now — I am so so grateful for everyone who celebrated my birthday with me. (Awwwww.) You guys made my 20s way less terrible than they would otherwise have been (seriously: whose stupid idea was it to have a whole decade where you’re still insecure like a teenager but have to deal with responsibilities like you’re an adult??) and I’m pretty sure my 30s will owe a lot to you, too.