Saturday, 23 August 2014

Out In The Street: Verona, Italy - Best Bars, Restaurants & Sights

Just the mention of Verona made me break out in a sweat. I’m a die-hard Italy fan, but I had never visited. And I never really wanted to. Why? Well I don’t like all that clich├ęd romantic stuff. Red roses, serenades, hand in hand street strolling? I’d rather hold an ice cream thanks. 

But as the old saying goes, you often find love when you least expect it. And Verona soon wooed me. This northern Italian city is sublime - crammed with history, surprisingly inexpensive bars and restaurants, and so accessible and easy that even the most useless holidayer couldn’t mess up a weekend here. Sure, there’s some of that cheesy couple stuff, but if you want to avoid it, you definitely can - and it’s a hell of a lot cooler than neighbouring tourist-packed Venice. Verona, my friends, is surprisingly local.

Two things in Verona cost €2.50. The first thing is entry into one of the churches (and there are very many). The second thing is a large glass of Aperol Spritz

And so for two nights this Summer (as I warmed up for Billy Idol in Padova) I Aperol Spritzed my way around the baking hot city. Eating, drinking, eating, drinking, admiring frescoes in churches (basically cooling off), followed by more eating and drinking. So here are a few of the places I liked.

To Drink

Gelaterio Bar San Zeno
For those who asked, an Aperol Spritz is a refreshing combination of Aperol (a bright orange but bitter alcohol), topped with Prosecco, soda water and ice. This little cafe is a 15 minute walk from the main part of town, but you'll be rewarded with a peaceful non-touristy square and fuss free outdoor seating, with locals enjoying an ice cream, aperitivo, and a natter. Buckets of Aperol Spritz (OK not buckets, the Italians are far more sophisticated) cost €2.50. 

Six Aperol Spritz will make you look a bit dozy too

Terrazza Bar "Al Ponte"
Stop here for a street-side spritz, or head through the bar to the riverside terrace at the back. 

Caffe Rialto
There aren't many tables outside here, but if you see one, grab it for prime early evening people watching by Porta Borsari.

To Eat 

Pizzeria Du De Cope
This is a great little local place devoid of tourists, and churning out deliciously doughy, mozzarella smothered pizzas with a lively indoor or outdoor setting.

Run by a smiley little Italian couple who serve hearty Veronese cuisine and a mind-boggling selection of wine. At the end of the meal the husband might make you stand for 15 minutes admiring his truffles. 

Head here after Juliet’s Balcony for hearty portions of pasta and parmigana.

To See/Do

Walk walk walk
It's the best way to see the city. 

I think all of the tourists who visit Verona are packed into this tiny courtyard, which might explain why the rest of the city is relatively peaceful in comparison. You’ll see the graffiti-scrawled wall as you enter, then the balcony, then loads of spotty teenagers groping Juliet’s breast (rubbing the bronze statue brings you luck in love, apparently). We reversed out pretty pronto and headed to Greppia (above) for some lunchtime vino. 

This would be a peachy Springsteen concert venue. I think I’d opt for an acoustic set (as if I’m in the position to choose). Even without the concert this ancient marvel is staggering, although I’ve always had a thing for the Romans and their architecture. When opera season isn’t on, it stills demands a visit. 

There's gazillions. I think I managed to go in 90% (my favourite was San Zeno, pictured below). Buy one of the tickets allowing you entry into several of the main ones. The others are a couple of euros a time (the same price as an Aperol Spritz, remember). 

San Zeno Church

To Stay

A converted Roman villa, Palazzo Victoria is a peaceful boutique option in the town centre. 13th century frescoes, bathtubs with vicious jets and hearty Italian breakfasts combine to create a lux but relaxed vibe.

Getting There

It’s so easy to get to the city from the airport – I’m talking 15 minutes on a bus and you’re right there in the thick of it all.

In fact, the whole city is easy. And brilliant. So what's stopping you?!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

When Bad Burgers Happen To Good People: The Very Worst Burgers Around The World

Who looks at porn online? 

I do.

I look at burger porn every single day. 

The internet is littered with it - from Instagram, to Twitter, to whole websites such as Pornburger. Every day I'm seduced by pictures and videos of soft bouncy buns, juicy patties and dressed up lettuce causing me endless excitement and satisfaction.

But sometimes, it goes wrong. And bad burgers do happen to good people.

I don't want to write up every bad burger experience on here using the word "shit" twenty times because I'm so disillusioned that I can't think of much else. I don't want to tear burgers to pieces (literally, or in a blog post). 

Instead I've decided to create this gallery of bad burgers, as a sort of lazy/bizarre way of 'showcasing' the very worst burgers I eat, and you eat, around the world.

As much as I would love to, I can't tell you where all of these burgers are from. Not because I'm a fun sponge, but because apparently if my opinions are too honest and negative online, I'm at risk of being sued. Ridiculous eh? Either way, it would leave my teeny tiny Bruce Springsteen touring fund in tatters. For now I will list the city/country, and maybe the odd clue. If you've had a bad burger experience, please send it over with some info, and if I think it looks really horrendous (because I do judge books by their covers) then I'll stick it on here.

This list will be kept updated from the top down....

So, let's begin.

Some random town, Switzerland 
Actually, this burger will always be at the top of the list because surely it's not possible to find a more tragic looking burger. The worst part? This cost 28 euro. 28 EURO. (Well, the equivalent. Switzerland eh!). I only wish I could have been there to see my friend's face when this burger arrived. I would have laughed. A lot. Hell, I'm laughing just typing this.


Stockholm, Sweden
@lengan sent me this 'open burger' picture. I guess it's an attempt at simple modern Scandinavian design, but I feel it misses the mark. 

Cape Town, South Africa
Imagine going to an incredible Bruce Springsteen concert in Cape Town, and then eating a lettuce burger afterwards. That's what I did. 

Somewhere On The Isle of Wight, England 

The grizzle in the patty. Oh man, the grizzle in the patty.

To be continued.

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