Tourist trap @ Avignon

Yes, we were conned and we had learnt our lesson, “Never never eat anything near tourist spots!” How we managed to make such a basic mistake? Well, let me explain…

Our first afternoon in Avignon was very summery – hot and humid. ‘Mum, do you fancy ice cold beer?’

Around Place de l’Horloge, there were many cafes and restaurants which offered alfresco dining. May be we can have beer and dinner at one of them, we thought.

‘I fancy paella because I haven’t eaten rice for a while.’, mum pointed at one of the eateries which was displaying a large menu with photographs. As soon as we stopped in front of the menu, a middle aged man with an apron around his hip appeared and started chatting in English. ‘Two of you? For dinner? Ok, ok, sit here. What do you wanna drink?’ He ushered us to one of the tables and handed us laminated menu.

While we contemplated what to eat, our beers were brought to the table.

Cheers, mum!

What the he** is that?, you may ask. Apparently, this was my seafood “noodle” paella. The noodle turned out to be just broken up spaghetti and apart from single very limp mussel and a couple of squid rings, the dish was devoid of any “seafood”. I was disgusted because it was nothing like the image on their menu.

Mum’s seafood paella did marginally better by sporting slightly more fillings. Still, it tasted mediocre and could hardly justify the price of €15.

Probably, the “noodle” paella was the worst food I had ever tasted in my life – too greasy and too salty. I ended up leaving more than half of the wretched crusty spaghetti on the plate.

Then, the guy reappeared and he had the cheek to ask me if I liked the dish. I replied, ‘Pas du tout.’, giving the thumbs down.

He shrugged his shoulders and cleared our table. Allez, M.Thickskin, I silently swore to his back. What a tourist trap!

In front of the city hall, two guys were busking…

We would have enjoyed their performance more if our meal wasn’t a rip-off and the guy wasn’t so cocky! Mum and I left the place, feeling very very annoyed.

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Paella, paella, paella…

‘Let’s have paella because there is almost no queue!’ Our decision was prompt because we were very hungry and also cold. The urge to fill our stomach with something warm was too strong to resist.

Hubbie and I were standing by a pop-up gazebo, selling freshly cooked paella at Cubitt Square. The pop-up canteen was one of the many street food shops, especially there for Lumiere London 2018.

Mmmm…, I’m starving…

There were two choices, seafood and chorizo. And we opted for the chorizo one…

The paella looked great and I was only very grateful because the rice was piping hot. However, my joy was short lived.

Why they make it salty?!

The dish was very very very very salty. ‘I tasted the paella as salty as this when I went to Málaga ages ago.’, I told Hubbie as I ferried the rice to my mouth gingerly.

Yes, the seriously brined paella did bring back a bitter sweet memory of my holiday at Málaga. The trip was my very first solo holiday and also turned out to be the last one. I was supposed to go with my friend but she got cold feet at the last minute and as a result, I ended up being in a foreign city all on my own.

After spending tedious four hours in a departure lounge at Gatwick Airport because the plane was delayed, I found myself walking through a deserted arrival lobby of Málaga Airport in the early morning. I can’t recall exactly how but I managed to communicate the address of my hotel to a taxi driver and he took me to an unassuming hotel on one of the quiet streets in the city centre.

My room was small and modestly decorated. It had no TV or a great view from the window. Then, the reality dawned on me, ‘Oh shit, will I have to spend my entire Christmas holiday alone in here?’

I must say I didn’t enjoy my four days in the Spanish port city at all. The first two days was especially boring because they were Christmas Day and Boxing Day. No place, except some eateries, was open and I spent my time, walking around a deserted port and a crumbling fort which overlooked the beach.

The hotel I stayed did not have a bar nor a restaurant, therefore, I had to find somewhere to eat. Would I look odd if I dined alone?, I pondered. Then, I saw a brightly lit sign of a tapas bar in the distance and decided to eat my first dinner of Málaga there.

The walls of the eatery was clad with dark brown wood and there were legs of pork dangling from the ceiling. I picked up a laminated menu from the counter and pointed at the picture of paella and then a word, “Diet Coke”. A man behind the counter gave me a slight nod and disappeared into the kitchen.

The man came back from the kitchen surprisingly quickly and placed a plate in front of me. The steaming heap of the sunflower yellow rice looked very tempting because I didn’t have a chance to eat properly that day, therefore, I picked up a cutlery eagerly and spooned the content into my mouth. But oh no, no, NO! The paella was very salty. It was so salty that I could only managed to eat less than half on the plate, despite I was starving. How can anyone find the dish that salty be palatable?!, I was utterly dismayed.

After the fiasco at the tapas bar, I resorted to eating every dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. Their food was bog-standard but at least, their fried rice was no way as salty as the paella.

‘So the paella you had in Málaga was as salty as this?’, Hubbie shook his head in disbelief.

‘Oh, I can eat no more!’

I handed my half eaten paella to Hubbie who volunteered to finish it off. While watching him scoffing the rice and the chorizo in the dark at Gasholder Park, I wandered along a colonnade around the circular lawn. ‘Next time, we shall take paella with a pinch of salt.’ Hubbie declared as he joined me and Bella. I couldn’t agree more…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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