Those who have visited Southeast Asia know how much fun the night markets are: one can spend hours strolling through the closed off streets, shopping, eating, browsing and catching some live entertainment.
Toronto’s oldest Chinatown – there are six in the Greater Toronto Area – is hosting the second annual Toronto Chinatown Night Market, giving visitors and locals an opportunity to experience a traditional Asian night market without spending the exorbitant airfare to get there.
The free event runs from July 20th until September 7th, 2012, from 5pm until 10pm every Friday and Saturday night. The area where the market takes place (Huron Street, south of D’Arcy Street) will be closed to vehicles between 3pm and 12am.
Street vendors sell everything from handicrafts to toys and household items. There is fortune telling – both English and Chinese, as well as games, giveaways, and music. This year, the focus of the event is food, with many food stalls set up, as well as street food eating contests.
Google map: bit.ly/P8MIgU
* Giulia is our Been there local for Toronto. You can see her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/places/canada/toronto/index.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/GiuliaFalsetti
No need to walk far from the Sablon square to find an inexpensive place to eat: for a start there’s the Parrot just off the square – ideal for lunch or as a prelude to a night out. Here the speciality is pitta, 72 different types of pitta on my last count. These come in baskets cradled in the nook of the server’s arm, and are deceptively filling – if you disagree you can just order another. There’s scope to have vegetarian, salads and pittas with dried fruit and nuts - all proving that pittas don’t have to be unhealthy or predictable. You get four different sauces to dribble on your pitta, and insufficient
napkins, but never mind. Some of the contents are liable to escape, scattering themselves
mischievously, making mess! Enjoy in a graceful bar of art nouveau swirls, turquoisey walls and
unpolished marble table tops. For 10 euro for a pitta and freshly squeezed juice you can’t really go wrong. Well-known but still a nice mix of exchange students, local couples and groups. Everyone gets a lollipop with the bill: we wouldn’t want to disturb this genteel Sablon neighbourhood afterwards, would we? And just a short hop from the rum bar I mentioned earlier.
31, rue Watteau, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
+32(0)2 512 99 22
Google map: bit.ly/NkyhTF
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
How about this for a perfect day out with three children: we rented Assunta Maria, accommodation with a delightful mix of old meets new, with a very modern lamia and traditionally restored Trulli - which keeps cool in the sun so it is brilliant for when the children need shade from the pool.
Head early to ZooSafari in Fasano and make sure your first stop is the Monkey Train. You sit in cages(!) as passengers on a train and you head into the monkey reserve. The monkey's then crawl all over the cages, right above your head and squawk at you until you feed them monkey nuts! The kids are either roaring with laughter or stunned into silence with fear.
Chill out in the afternoon by joining the old men in Ceglie Messapica town square, walking up and down, repeatedly, until those stomach's start rumbling and Aldo's Pizza is just round the corner - the best Pizza in Italy (says my 5 year old nephew Huey - and he is always right!)
Assunta Maria is just outside of Ceglie Messapica:
+44 (0)1386 710630
ZooSafari is in Fasano:
Via dello Zoosafari, 72015 Fasano Brindisi, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/RGxaAu
Aldo's Pizza is just outside Ceglie Messapica's town square
An amazing little family run restaurant below ground off one of the main routes to the piazza. We found this looking for a late lunch, were warmly welcomed by the two brothers for whom English was as much of a challenge as Italian was/is to us. We were offered hot or cold lunch and opted for hot. We were treated to course after course of anti pasti including sea food, olives, breads, sausage etc. mid way through this we decided there would be no 'primi piatti" only to be surprised by a steaming bowl of simple but beautiful orecchiette. Lovely wine, and friendly patrons all keen to help out in their pidgin English. A wonderful happy accident finding this place, and two years later we still laugh thinking about it all. Should have been called "Serendipity"!
Vico VI Orto Nannavecchia
Trulli are typical of the region, circular limestone buildings with a conical roof, each slightly different, kind of resembling a Moor's turban from an Aladdin film. They are dotted around the area, and come in different levels from basic to luxury. Rent one near Ostuni (The White City), only about 10km from the crystal Adriatic, visit different villages for dinner every night from Locorotondo (great outdoor club called Mavu) to a meat feast at Ceglie Messapica, or passegiata at Martina Franca. But maybe best of all is to go to the market in the morning to buy fresh Buratta, Altamura bread, Primitivo wine and orechiette. I'm dreaming again ...
Most people barely give Bari a backwards glance as they disembark from the boat in the main port and head to more aesthetically pleasing places such as Lecce, Polignano or Otranto. I think this is rather unfair; it may not be big on monuments, art and beautiful buildings like Florence or Rome, but there are few tourists, so you can shop, eat and drink among the local 'Baresi', and get a feel of the real 'Italy'.
Go to 'Da Donato' pizzeria on via Lattanzio. This is a family-run place and very popular - it gets so busy on a weekend night, you either have to go 'early', ie around 8pm, or book a table. The service is friendly, relaxed and professional, and as far as I can remember there is no English menu, so bring your phrase book! As you'll see from the pictures on the walls, it's popular with footballers from the local club, but prices don't reflect that - three to nine euros for a pizza (go for buffalo mozzarella and courgette flowers when in season). However, you may not have room for one after their legendary antipasti! (Tip: order one antipasti per couple - it's big!) Free sweets and a local speciality of sugared 'taralli' will then be passed around in giant bowls. Round it off with an espresso or amaro.
There are so many beautiful places in Puglia, and definitely visit these, but give Bari at least a day of your trip. With true Baresi food there shouldn't be a 'spaghetti carbonara' or 'hawaian pizza' in sight!
Otranto is an ancient port on Puglia's Adriatic coastline and the perfect seaside getaway. We booked into the family run Bellavista hotel on the seafront and were given an 'Otranto card' which entitled us to use the city's bikes free of charge. Cycling down to Porto Badisco, a rocky, lagoon like swimming cove, nine kms down the coast, proved a real treat. However there is heaps to enjoy in Otranto itself. The Romanesque cathedral in the old city is full of ghoulish surprises. A medieval monk called Pantaleone clearly had a lot of fun designing the cathedral's mosaic floor which contains a plethora of weird and wonderful pictures from Noah's Ark and Alexander the Great to King Arthur. And after roaming about, exploring Otranto's delightful nooks and crannies (or sitting under the trees on the seafront with a coffee or ice cream) where better to finish off the day than dining on gargantuan portions of pizza and seafood at La Bella Idrussa, which must surely rank as one of the best value restaurants in Puglia. Get there early if you don't want to queue.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 18 73028 Otranto
Google map: bit.ly/QtYLRx
La Bella Idrusa
Via Lungomare Degli Eroi 73028 Otranto Province of Lecce, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/MSzW6S
This fantastic restaurant was recommended by an Italian friend from Lecce and it is wonderful. The outdoor terraces overlooking the Ionian Sea have a relaxed atmosphere and are busy with local and holidaying Italians. There is no written menu, with the dishes comprising what is available daily - an array of delicious Italian anti-pasti served tapas style, followed by a sea food pasta course, and if you have room, a fish course too. Be warned, the amount of food is huge, and too tasty so avoid over-eating!
Via del Mare, 2, Torre San Gregorio - 73053
Google map: bit.ly/QflZdU
In the heart of the historic centre of Massafra there is a little jewel, the Falsopepe. This vinery and restaurant offers an unusual menu. It will surprise you with its sweet and sour dishes made with simple organic ingredients and lots of imagination.
The terrace with a view over SS Medici piazza and the sea is something that can't be missed. The place is also run by extremely nice staff.
Beautifully converted farm houses in a stunning olive grove 10 minutes from the lovely fortified port of Otranto. Rooms are cool and elegant, private garden and pool in courtyard. Short drive or cycle to Otranto and surrounding secluded rocky coves. Swathes of fresh fruits and pastries for breakfast and unbelievable selection of antipasti and pastas served at lunch.
A friend from Bari brought me to this small restaurant just outside Alberobello. From the moment you step inside, it becomes immediately obvious that this is a local fave. They serve good, hearty Pugliese Italian food at affordable prices - think 25 euros per person including wine. In the evenings, this restaurant is packed with locals - some who come all the way from Bari (a 20 minute drive away). I highly recommend their spaghetti alla carbonara, cold cut meat platter and cheese platter.
It is the best Italian restaurant I've ever been to - friendly, authentic, affordable and has a beautiful outdoor patio perfect for summer dinners.
Do be warned, though, that it is closed on Wednesdays and it is best to reserve a table before heading over to avoid disappointment.
Middle-eastern restaurant with the best falafel I've ever had! Sides also wonderful: yummy, fresh and original (including something lemony the owner said was his recipe and lightly fried bread, cheese, vegs). Very reasonably priced. Sit at outdoor tables or carry out.
Santa Maria al Bagno is a beautiful little town on the Ionian coast. The sea front is compact and low key, fronted by old Italian town houses which double as waterfront cafés. Here you can pick up a gelato or an Africano (espresso with Disaronno, fizzy water and ice) for the tiny but perfectly formed beach. The beach gets busy, especially at weekends, but is a fantastic spot for people watching as the crowds are an eclectic mix of bronzed locals.
I’d recommend spending the afternoon swimming in the crystal clear sea and as the sun begins to set head south a few miles down the coastal road towards Lido Conchiglie to one of the fish restaurants (one is called La Maruzella). These restaurant sit right on the water's edge and you can watch the sun disappear into the sea while enjoying their wide range of basic but delicious and incredibly fresh fish dishes (sometimes you can watch the fisherman arrive at the restaurant’s jetty with their catch and see it on your plate 30 minutes later). Bring a phrase book!
Via Cristoforo Colombo (lido conchiglie), Sannicola,
Google map: bit.ly/MsTqIW
Torre dei Preti is an agriturismo located 2km outside the beautiful coastal town of Peschici, on the north Puglian coast on the Gargarno peninsula. It's a family-run business, and owners Oscar and Lucrezia are fantastic hosts, and even more fantastic chefs.
Rooms, mostly apartment-style, are located out in the well-kept grounds, are spacious, modern and comfortable, and are kept spotlessly clean. Balconies have a view out to the ice-white buildings of Peschici framed by the blue sky and olive trees. Near to the main house is a large, well-maintained and heated swimming pool with a sun-terrace and loungers, so while Torre dei Preti is a great base from which to explore the Gargarno, it's also a lovely place to spend time relaxing.
And of course, the food, the food, the food! Half-board at Torre dei Preti is a gastronomic experience, with almost all of the food being locally sourced and expertly cooked and served with love. Breakfasts are buffet-style, with a vast array of fruits, breads, yoghurts, cheese, meats and preserves, plus juice, coffee and cake, yes, cake - and all homemade. Dinner offers a table groaning with fish, meat and vegetable antipasti, followed by a choice of primi (usually pasta or risotto) and a choice of meat or fish secondi - again, everything is local and super-fresh. If you have room after all that (which you may not, but Lucrezia will convince you otherwise) desserts are homemade and generous, or you can simply enjoy a plate of fruit and an excellent coffee. Wine, all local, is superb.
All in all a stunning find, well-priced in comparison to other agriturismi in the area - an absolute gem.
Whatever your itinerary in Puglia will be, don’t miss out this town. It is a real gem cast on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea. You can have a cheap and delicious ice cream at Il Super Mago del Gelo topped up with coffee whipped cream and hazelnuts praline or a pricey and succulent dinner at Donna Gina listening to the waves crushing on the bay. Now that you have satisfied your appetite head into the old town and reach one of the terraces while reading about the poetry of 'Guido il Flaneur' painted on the old houses’ walls, because this must be the place.
A beautiful restaurant/bar overlooking Polignano's old town. It's OTT italian chic and a bit pricey, but come here in the evening to see one of the most spectacular sunsets in the region. After dinner walk down the authentically dilapidated roman road to a pebble-beached cove, to enjoy the view of the caves and the old town built into them. The sounds of the sea, the giggles of young locals, and the odd poorly but enthusiastically played guitar.
Viale San Francesco D'Assisi n.c. - Polignano a Mare (Ba)
Fantastic local basic restaurant set in a fabulous, characterful, surreal square. Typical local food with lots of veg (which is typical - this region is great for vegetarians, one of the very few in Europe). Best of it is the old dad of the two young owners. He makes the wine and the liqueurs (including prickly pear and wild fennel), sings songs and flirts like mad with the girls - of all ages. He is 75 or so so watch it - he has a lot of experience. Set in the main piazza. Closed on a Monday. The horse stew is great.
16 P. Vittoria, Spongano, Le 73038, 73020, Italy
+39 0836 945730
Google map: bit.ly/NBXeHY
It is simply the best fish restaurant in Salento, south Puglia. I have lived here for 10 years and am always on the look out for a good fish restaurant. Freshly caught fish by fisherman owner. Very small so book in advance by phone (if you don't speak Italian send an SMS!) These guys don't do computers. It is extremely basic in decor and the quality of fish and how it is cooked is a sublime experience. If you like fancy, forget it. And then get out of Salento, because Salento doesn't do fancy.
Go for a swim in the port before lunch. Do not be put off by switched on televisions in restaurants in Salento however much they annoy you - they prove the place is run by a local family offering good local food. I have a friend who only eats in restaurants where the TV is switched on. He is very well fed.
Lungomare Critstoforo Colombo, 73040 Tricase Porto
+39 (0)339 7984291
Google map: bit.ly/MrmeGD
Come see the locals dancing the tango in the town square of this beautiful hill top village and if you are feeling hungry visit La Taverna del Duca for excellent rustic Puglian food and wine. Bellissimo!
Via Papatotero, 3, 70010 Locorotondo, Italy
The best place to base yourself in Puglia is a trulli and I think you would be hard pushed to find one more idyllic than Trulli Stella. It's a little off the beaten track and surrounded by farmland, olive groves and locals escaping (from nearby Ceglie) to the country for the weekend. More importantly it has it's own fully equipped outside kitchen and pizza oven and if you like, Maria, the trulli's manager, will visit with her mother, and cook you an amazing meal with enough food to last you for the entire week using ingredients from the garden and the local market.
When you can bring yourself to leave the tranquility of the trulli you are truly spoilt for choice as to where you head. There's the market cafe at Locorotondo where you can pop in for a sweet cake and deliciously strong espresso, before heading into the market to buy more ingredients for cooking those long leisurely lunches in your trulli. You can join the locals doing their morning shopping in nearby St Michele, but be aware you need to be assertive in the bakery queue if you don't want all the good bread to be sold before you get your turn.
A trip to the coast is essential and Villanova di Ostuni has some of the best local beaches: crystal clear waters, acres of white sand and a sweet marina where you can choose between a glass of icy cold rose at the local bar or a gelato on the other side of the square.
The white washed, hill top town of Cisternino is not to be missed; head to Pizzeria Da Angelo for some delicious wood fired pizza, sitting down to eat among the local teenagers, young families and grandparents alike. Take a stroll after dinner to listen to music playing in the piazza, or come back during the day to explore its warren of back streets and alleyways.
Finally no trip to Puglia is complete without participating in the evening passeggiata and there is no place better for this than Martina Franca with its mixture of shops and wonderful architecture. Sit with a glass of beer in the main square and absorb the wonderfully convivial spectacle.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org