Aglio Rosso di Nubia

A bunch of Nubian garlic in “Nonna’s kitchen”

Aside from keeping vampires at bay garlic is perhaps one of the most important ingredients to keep in ones kitchen.

Red Nubian garlic in a wooden bowl

The nutritional and health benefits of garlic have been known for thousands of years. In sicily, certainly in and around the town of Trapani, the Aglio Rosso di Nubia is a common sight. It is grown in the countryside centred on the village of Nubia, just outside Trapani in the direction of Marsala.

While a single clove of garlic is not going to have a significant impact, health-wise, a 100 gms (rather a lot even spread throughout the day) offers significant qualtities of vitamins B6 and C, and the dietary minerals manganese and phosphorus (approx 20% of daily need).

I once ate a whole garlic bulb that had been roasted. Delicious at the time but I suspect those near me weren’t so pleased with the garlic smell that stayed with me till next day!

Source: US Department of Agriculture

Garlic has been used medicinally as a cold remedy, though it seems there is no evidence to prove it works. It does have anti-bacterial properties and may be beneficial in reducing hypertension and some forms of cancer.

Personally I enjoy garlic with soups, sauces and salads and will take it with honey if I have a cold.

Where it is from:

A walk to the Reserve

WWF Reserve, Saline di Trapani

To reach the Salina reserve from where my mother lives, taking the most direct route, took me about an hour, including a few stops to capture images, to cover the nearly 5 km journey on foot. I left early so as to cover as much distance as I could before the temperature rose, which it did well into the 30s celcius by the time I got there. I must have been out to punish myself for some reason.

Salt pans or, more accurately, evaporation ponds and irrigation channel

The purpose of my outing was to capture some images of the now disused evaporation ponds that form the reserve, to visit the WWF centre and, hopefully, to see some bird life including Greater Flamingos. I was out of luck with the flamingos that will arrive later in the summer but also with the WWF centre which was closed. On reflection I have never seen the place open but I have seen reports from those who have visited.

WWF information board

  1. The roadside edge of the salt ponds have tall reeds that obscure the view. There are a couple of breaks in the reeds, including a simple wooden “hide” at one corner of a pond, so I was able to get good views of a few birds.

WWF sitting area and “hide”

I am not usually lucky enough to get close to birds in the wild but they were kind to me and allowed me to get some reasonable shots of Little Terns, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and egrets. In addition to the bird pics I bagged a few of the salt pans and the old windmills that were used in the past to pump water from the pans. I could hear reed warblers of some kind but didn’t see these elusive birds.

Avocet (image to be replaced from camera later this month)

On the way back I saw a kestrel, a few moorhens and a family of mallard. A couple of years ago I saw Spoonbills, Shelduck, Greater Flamingos and some shorebirds.

Overall it was a productive outing, though really hot on the way back. I was disappointed that the WWF centre was closed but perhaps on a future visit I will have a chance to talk to the staff about the habitat.

Salt production is still a significant industry in Trapani using modern methods of production. In addition to the ponds near the reserve there is large production areas at between Trapani and Marsala.

How to get there

I do not recommend walking unless you are very keen to get exercise.

By car, take the SP21 road from Trapani to Marsala. It passes the WWF centre where there is on-road parking on the side road outside the centre (not on the main highway).

Google Map view

There are no buses on this route.

Walking photo tour of Trapani

The images and text in this post provide a summary of the walking tour that I conducted last month. Greater detail may appear in specific subject articles at a later date.

In view of the really hot weather that Trapani had been “enjoying” the walking tour started at 08:30 so as to complete it before the heat of the sun got too uncomfortable.

Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II

The tour began at the statue of King Vittorio Emanuele II which sits in the square of the same name. We spent a few minutes taking photos of the statue (composition, rule of thirds, golden ratio) before crossing via Fardella, now closed to traffic, to the fountain of Triton.

Triton fountain

The fountain features two large horses in the middle of the water feature that is centred on a bronze figure of Triton (a Greek god of the sea, son of Poseidon).

Here we spent 15 minutes taking creative shots (selective depth of field, aperture control) from various points of view of the fountain before crossing via Spalti to the gardens of Villa Margherita.

A shaded boundary inside the Villa Margherita gardens

Although referred to as a “villa” the Villa Margherita is a public garden that was established in honour of Queen Margherita. It is bounded by broad tree-lined paths with colourful flowers in the central areas.

Bougainvillea, palms and exotic trees in flower in Villa Margherita

There are statues of a variety of famous people dotted around the gardens and a nice water feature at the top end. We spent 30 minutes here (histograms, manual controls).

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Moving on, we then walked to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, named after the site of a major battle in the Venetian area that ended the Austro-Hungarian empire and contributed to the end of WWI. Around the square are a number of government buildings including the Post Office (under renovation but still operating).

Post Office interior with art deco decoration

The inside of the post office is well worth looking at. It has an art deco style in good condition (contrast, available light). The outside of the building has been partly covered for the last two years but the process of renovating this 90 year-old building seems inordinately slow, though to be fair the work has to be done to last many more years.

Just beyond the Piazza is the start of via Garibaldi.

Via Garibaldi

Via Garibaldi, named after Giuseppe Garibaldi who was instrumental in the unification of Italy and subsequent creation of the Kingdom of Italy, is part of the old town of Trapani. It is closed to traffic other than delivery vehicles. Along the road are a number of historic buildings and churches though the narrowness of via Garibaldi means it is not entirely photogenic.

Bar Il Salotto, via Garibaldi

At the end of via Garibaldi, more specifically at the bar Il Salotto, we took a short rest to have a cooling and healthy pomegranate juice while discussing progress so far and what was to come.

Fish Market Square

Around the corner from the bar is the old fish market square, now used for cultural events.

The square is bounded on two sides by a colonnade atop the sea wall with the sea behind. It features a bronze statue of Venus/Aphrodite near the road.

We left the square, taking the narrow path of via Mura di Tramontana West, along the top if the sea wall. From here we had views of part of the old town fortification towards the Bastione Conca and the beach below it.

Bastione Conca, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

After visiting the Bastion we took the steps down from via Mura di Tramontana and along the road before entering viale delle Sirene (Avenue of the Sirens) and back onto the Mura di Tramontana.

Beach view, Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

View of Torre di Ligny from Mura di Tramontana, Trapani

Yellow-legged Gull

Torre de Ligny

We left Torre de Ligny, heading back towards town on Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the Rua Grande, built in the 13th century) passing the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (St Lawrence) towards the famous astronomical clock tower on via Torrearsa.

Porta Oscura

Porta Oscura, the dark gate, is one of the four historic entrances to the old town. Above and adjacent to the gate is the clock tower.

Torre del Orologio

The astronomical clock, built in 1596, is one of the oldest of its kind and still functions.

We were now on via Torrearsa.

Via Torrearsa

At one end of via Torrearsa is the fish market square that we had passed earlier, and were now returning to, while at the other end is the port. This makes the road, with its shops, bars, restaurants and points of interest, a busy place for tourists especially those on cruise liners that frequent Trapani.

Fontana de Saturno

While walking along via Torrearsa we stopped at the Saturn Fountain that was built to commemorate the opening of the aqueduct built in 1342.

We then made our way back to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to conclude the walking photo tour.

Apart from learning a little bit about Trapani, participants on the tour receive practical instruction on camera usage including:

Starting: Camera basics – body, lens and sensors

Seeing: Composition and objective

Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes

Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO

Lighting: Daylight and artificial light

Histograms: what they tell you

Afternoon in Lisbon

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When you travel a lot you can expect things to go off plan every once in a while. Luckily, Lisbon is a place where gems can be easily recovered from the ashes of a bad experience – it’s such a great city to visit.

My flight was due to arrive in Lisbon on Wednesday at 11:20 and I had arranged through my hotel for a car to meet me. It was not until after I had made my booking that I discovered that the hotel was not a hotel nor even a guesthouse but was an apartment with limited reception facilities. Not a major issue, or so I thought.

After collecting my bag I sent a message to the driver to alert him as planned. As I left the baggage area I remained standing on the exit ramp of the arrivals area for 30 minutes facing a host of waiting drivers with placards advertising various passenger names. My messages had not been read accirding to the greyed-out ticks on Whatsapp. I rang and messaged the contact number that I had been given, to no avail. But no stress yet, just mild annoyance.

As the weather was pleasant I decided to walk down to the “hotel”. It was less than 15 minutes away on foot – ten if the traffic lights allowed me to cross the roads without waiting. However, when I arrived there was clearly no way of getting into the building or the apartment without some form of concierge. I really have no idea what I was expected to do even if a driver had been there to meet me since checkin was advertised as being available from 4pm. At other hotels and guest houses one can at least leave ones baggage and go out, or at least wait to see if another room becomes available sooner.

On returning to the airport I had a coffee. Despite the four-hour time difference between Portugal and Brazil I felt the need to have snack lunch so I also ordered a salami sandwich and a “bom bocado”. The term bom bocado translates as “a good bite”. The one served at Padaria Lisboa at the airport was a custard tart of a type between the traditional Pastel de Belem and a traditional English custard tart, but without nutmeg. (see my earlier post). It was of the same consistency as the English version, perhaps a bit more solid, though more subtle in flavour. This pastry differed from the Brazilian bom bocado that I had tried a few years ago, made with shredded coconut. The one I tried at the airport was nice but nothing to rave about.

Bom Bocado at Lisbon Airport

While I sat at the airport I phoned the travel agent through whom I had made the booking. They were helpful but, to cut a long story short, there was nothing I could do till 4pm. Four hours wasted.

I walked back to the hotel after eventually making contact with the very apologetic “manager” (probably a student) where I eventually got checked in at a little after 4pm.

At a quarter to five, after taking a quick shower, I walked down to Parque das Nações on the bank of the River Tagus. The walk was a pleasant one that took less than 30 minutes. The sun was still hot and quite high in the sky. The pavement, decorated with the similar small black and white mosaic blocks that one can see in Brazil, was lumpy while the cycle paths running alongside were smooth and asphalted.

Oriente

Roof of Oriente railway station

At a little after 5pm I passed the bus station and then under the rail bridge before crossing Avenida Dom João II. The architecture in the area is world class – the Oriente bus station and the rail station of the same name are great example of mixing function with art. Once into the Park of the Nations there are other examples of fine architecture: the Vasco da Gama tower, the Altice Arena, the Pavilhão de Portugal and the Oceanarium being among them.

The Portugal Pavilion (top)                          Exhibition Centre (bottom)

One could quite easily spend a whole day relaxing at Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations).

The area, a major redeveloped project, includes a promenade with green spaces, restaurants, cafes and bars as well as the large Lisbon Oceanarium.

A few metres away from the Oceanarium is the cable car station. One can take a ride along the riverside, looking down on the treelined promenade (Passeo das Tàgides) arriving near the Vasco da Gama building (the tallest in Lisbon) – a tall white building/tower that is now a hotel. The ride is a gently swaying pleasant trip with great views.

Cable car station near the Vasco da Gama tower on Passeo das Tàgides

I decided on just a single journey rather than a return as I wanted to walk back to the Oceanarium – a walk of a little over a kilometre. Beyond the Vasco da Gama tower is a green area known as Parque de Tejo. As time was short I had to give this area a miss and as it wasn’t possible to go up the tower I continued my walk back along the promenade.

Passeio

The tree-lined promenade (Passeo das Tàgides)

The Parque das Nações has gardens, water features and pavillions for events. One of its more interesting water features is its “volcanoes”. There are several of these tall conical structures, decorated with coloured ceramic mosaics, with water flowing from the top and down the sides. Every once in a while the volcano will erupt with water bursting out of the top, followed by a period of silence till the water begins to flow again. Lovely feature.

A “volcano” on Caminho da Água waterway on the main Alameda dos Oceanos – before erupting

Erupt

Eruption!

Before leaving the park I wanted to have a glass of wine. An artisanal burger restaurant, Honorato Rio, caught my eye. I took a seat outside on the parasol covered deck on the promenade and was given both wine and food menus. I ordered a glass of Silica, a Douro red (€3.50), and a Picanha burger, sesame covered bun sliced in three layers with strips of beef (picanha*), gorgonzola cheese and tomato, served with garlic mayonnaise and a serving of “mata-bixo” (chips / French fries) (€11.50). Nice food, but not outstanding.

* Picanha is a cut of beef called sirloin cap in the United States or the rump cover or rump cap in the United Kingdom and, in Brazil, is regarded as the best piece – especially in BBQ restaurants.

I then walked back to the apartment. End of day.

 

If you fly on TAP Portugal airlines to any destination via any city in Portugal there is a promotion that allows you to stay for up to five days with no additional cost. Lisbon and Porto are popular cities with plenty to see and do. The airline is well-managed, comfortable, and has a mileage program. I have travelled with TAP in both Executive Class and Economy and have always had great service from cabin crew as well as their contact centre staff where, on one occasion, I had an issue that they quickly resolved (internet issue).

All about image

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Venice in the rain

Bags packed and ready to fly. First port of call will be Lisbon where the weather is expected to be as warm as it is in Brazil so I will be out and about capturing images of food and sights to add to my collections.

As well as selling images through my principal agent, Alamy, I sell direct to clients and can take advance orders for specific images before I travel. I have just signed up to a new (for me) web-based photographic agency, FotoWoo, which I find potentially useful for picking up semi-commissioned work. It seems to work like an agency I used to use (Photographers Direct) that provided me with a few leads in years gone by but better. FotoWoo makes use of a request and supply system that is easily accessible via desktop or mobile apps. I think it has potential since it offers buyers the ability to obtain images from a variety of photographers. It makes us competitive too which is not a bad thing!

You may ask: How do I search for an image online? Google obviously helps but image agencies, unless you know a photographer, are the best bet.

In addition to the two agencies that I sell through, I also make use of other competitive sites through which to attract business: Freelancer and Upwork among others.

If in doubt, ask me! I will happily answer questions and more happily sell photos – they don’t have to be expensive!

New Projects

I shall be travelling again soon. My camera kit is packed for some serious studio and commercial photography work while based in Edinburgh.

Parque das Nações, Lisbon

I also have a stopover in Lisbon, as I usually try to do when flying from Brazil to Europe, so have a few projects lined up there too. Most of the time I shall be involved in capturing more sights of the city but, of course, there will be food and drink in the mix.

Old windmill used to pump water from the salt pools, Moxia, Marsala, Sicily

The months of June/July will find me in Sicily where I shall continue my search for the world’s best cannoli as well as trying a number of traditional Sicilian delicacies and wines.

National Monument of Scotland, Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Then I return to Edinburgh for an indefinite period in order to try to focus on both traditional Scottish cuisine in addition to finding the best vegetarian, vegan and Italian restaurants in the city.

Really looking forward to this trip!

As ever, if anyone would like to commission images or articles from this trip, please contact me so I can see if I have room in my schedule (I still have a couple of weeks in which to finalise my travel plans).

I have a couple of days set aside in Sicily for a Photographic Tour – an educational day trip in which participants can gain some practical tips on landscape / travel photography. I have provided the details in a post earlier this week.

Please contact me for details of my projects and check out my site Shoot Stock.

Photographic Tour of Western Sicily

Segesta

After a very warm Easter in UK what better way to see out the end of Spring than to spend a few days in Sicily!

I spend a lot of time in Sicily which is an enormously fascinating country – and photogenic too. I shall be there in June / July to welcome anyone with an interest in learning more about photography to spend a day with me exploring towns like Marsala, Erice and Corleone.

Apart from the opportunity to get fresh air and see parts of the island, you will gain an understanding of how to control your camera and to see landscapes with a different point of view.

Corleone.png

What you will learn:

  1. Starting: Camera basics – body, lens and sensors
  2. Seeing: Composition and objective
  3. Capture: How to use the camera’s shooting modes
  4. Control: Making the most of aperture, shutter speed and ISO
  5. Lighting: Daylight and artificial light
  6. Histograms: what they tell you

What you will need:

  • A digital camera with the ability to control exposure:
    • Programmed Auto (P)
    • Shutter-Priority Auto (S)
    • Aperture-Priority Auto (A)
    • Manual (M)
  • Flash (optional) There may be a flash incorporated in the camera that you have
  • Standard/wide-angle. (Telephoto/zoom lens – optional)
  • Tripod (optional but useful)
  • Water and warm clothes

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The Tour (conducted in English)

This will be a whole day session with an early start!

We will meet at the railway station in Palermo that will enable us to get some good views, to stop and chat about what we are doing, and to discuss/answer questions.

We will stop half-way through to have lunch (cost not included in the package) and talk through any issues. There will also be time to try cannoli or ice cream.

In the afternoon we have the option of seeing either the old and infamous town of Corleone or to visit the archaeological site of Segesta and the salt pans of Marsala (where we may stay on to sample the famous fortified wine).

Total time from start to finish will be about 10 hours.

Don’t forget to ensure you have a fresh memory card and fully charged battery in the camera. If in doubt bring back-up!

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Freshly made cannoli

Price

£200.00 per person (excludes flights)

£100.00 on booking to secure place (non-refundable)

Balance to be paid on the day of the tour.

When

Date: 12JUN19 or 19JUN19

How to get there

Fly to Palermo. There are direct and indirect flights from various UK airports.

A visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh

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Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh

Nature was in a good mood. The day proved to be relatively sunny and mild, sandwiched by cold wet days that prompted me to think about cancelling my visit to the gardens.

I arrived at the East Gate entrance, a gate festooned with metal flowers on a wire background. After purchasing a ticket to enter the Glasshouses I bought a coffee and snack before starting my photographic tour of the gardens. The first subjects were the colourful crocuses and daffodils near the gate.

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East Gate (pedestrian) entrance to the gardens

My walk took me, with the bright winter sun in my eyes, up to the left of the entrance and among bushes at either side of the path. The gardens are, in the main, wheelchair friendly with signs indicating which paths were, or were not, accessible.

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Direction signs on path

The only real issue with photographing the gardens at this time of year is the fact that some plants are not yet in bloom, and many trees were still bare. That said there were plenty of colourful plants to see and photograph and I came away with about 400 pictures for the day.

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As I reached the Nepalese garden the clouds gathered overhead so I made haste to the Terrace Cafe for lunch. I arrived just in time as the heavens opened and it rained quite heavily for an hour. Although hot food was available I decided to have a Coronation Chicken wrap, followed by a cherry slice and a cup of hot chocolate. At £10 for this simple meal  I was not unhappy but have heard comments that the food is regarded as expensive by some people.

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    Terrace Cafe near the Nepalese Garden

The rain cleared as I finished my lunch so I then made my way towards the Glasshouses, passing the huge beech hedge and the Queen Mother’s Memorial garden, then the rockery and finally the Glasshouses themselves. I entered via the Palm House which has palm trees (obviously!) and orchids.

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One of the many species of orchids on display

One then passes (after the ticket desk) into the series of 10 huge glass houses, a couple of which are very hot and humid!. A note here to those with cameras – the lenses will steam up as the camera/lens units will have come from the cold outside ambient temperature to a hot humid environment. I had to hug my lens for about 15 minutes, to bring up its temperature, and wipe the front lens with a micro-fibre lens cloth to clear the condensation. I also had to remove my jacket as I too was suffering from the heat (ironic considering I live in Brazil where temperatures are high).

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Amorphophallus konjak, also known as the Corpse Flower, in bloom

The exciting feature of the visit was the Amorphophallus konjac, also known as New Reekie or the Corpse Flower, which was in bloom for the first time in many years – a rare event. I have a poor sense of smell so did not notice the famed bad odour. Interestingly the plant is used as a source of vegan food in its native home in Indonesia. New Reekie was in the last of the 10 glass houses so I then retraced my steps back to the reception area.

The British Egg Custard Tart

Egg custard tart (Asda)

A month ago (10th January) I posted a note about pasteis de nata. I mentioned that whenever I am in the UK I buy egg custard tarts, and I did so today!

The English egg custard tart looks similar to the Portuguese pastel de nata but the origin of this product is much older than its Iberian cousin. The pastry is different – the English version is made from a traditional pie pastry while the Portuguese version is based on puff pastry. The flavouring of the custard is different too: the English version is nutmeg flavoured while the Portuguese version has a touch of cinnamon. The Portuguese pastel has less custard and is harder on the bite while the English version has a soft pastry and more custard in the filling.

Pasteis de nata

There is a difference between the Portuguese cream pastry and the British custard tart both visually and, more so, in the taste and texture. I like both and will post recipes in a few weeks time.

I prefer the freshly produced egg custards from a small bakery or cake shop but I have no issues with getting the industrial supermarket version off the shelf if there is no fresh stock. I like both varieties!

ASG images library:

We have a number of nutrition-related images in stock and can shoot to order. Contact us for stock or commissioned images.

NB: While Alan Skyrme has a number of diplomas in Nutrition and has provided opinions in this post it is strongly recommended that the latest available analyses of the nutritional contents and benefits are obtained from appropriately registered practitioners. The opinions provided here are indicative only and may be incomplete or out of date

A Casual Birder

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A speeding blur of black and yellow (* see note at end of post)

A flash of colour. The call of a bird as it flies into the safety of a bush. What was it? A bird obviously. But what sort of bird?

I became keen on birds when I was about 6 years old. I lived on a farm in a rural part of Yorkshire and saw plenty of wild birds. The farm had chickens and ducks, and pigs, but they didn’t interest me much. I liked the small colourful birds of the area and even managed to find birds nests, though how I managed to reach up into hedgerows at that age is a mystery to me now.

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European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) on a fence post, East Sussex, England

My mother was also keen on birds, spending much time in her kitchen looking out into the garden, so she bought a small book of British birds (I think it was one of the Observers series) that she still has to this day – the book must be at least 50 years old. It wasn’t till I was older that I started using the book to identify species that I didn’t recognise.

Now I have a collection of books covering birds of Africa, Asia (including Australia and India), Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America.

 

A few bird books from my collection

While I was always keen to see, and where possible to photograph, birds I was never one for documenting what I saw, where I saw them or what the birds were doing. I have friends that keep copious records, their life lists and country lists, and some that do so in contribution to ecology. I do it for me, pure and simple. I bird-watch for the delight and experience of seeing birds in the wild. If I had wanted to spend hours or longer searching for new species in a rainforest I would have chosen ecology as a career.

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Tour vehicle on the Trans-Pantanal Highway, Mato Grosso, Brazil

Having said that I do keep lists while I am “on safari” especially when jungle-bashing (I run intermittent trips into the Amazon and Pantanal – refer to my post of 7th June 2017) so that if I am lucky enough to get a saleable photograph I have the information available in respect of where and when. I use the term safari in the original arabic/swahili context – that is, when travelling to European city destinations.

So while I regard myself as a keen birder I would certainly not call myself an ornithologist (amateur or otherwise). Casual, that’s me.

Clockwise: Amazon Kingfisher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Golden-chevroned Parakeet, Hyacinth Macaw, Hoatzin, Green Bee-eater.

 

* The bird was later identified as a Yellow-hooded Blackbird but, although I managed to get a better picture of it the image was blurred by the rocking boat that I was on before I could get a decent shot.