On our second day in Barcelona I was cook of the day. What I may not have explained is that for each day we had a crew of the day when a driver, chef and TL were selected to run the day. Chefs got to know in advance so that we could shop in advance, drivers got to know the night before so that they could get rested but TLs often did not know until first thing in the morning or even swapped during the day. There was one occasion where the whole trip was woken at 3am and the trainers swapped all of the crew of the day in one go. This was hectic because we had to do a lot of organising then on the spot, in the middle of the night.
So cook of the day in Barcelona was actually a sweet deal because we were in a hostel with breakfast provided and we were buying our own dinner! All I had to do was prepare 80 lunches out of my room…. That was the night I got an hour and a half sleep. That morning we were sent into the city for fact finding. I fact found breakfast at La Boqueria a beautiful food market off of La Rambla whilst we watched the store holders setting up their wares of dried and fresh fruit, seafood still wriggling on the ice, huge slabs of cheese, vegetables so perfect and shining that I thought they could be plastic! The sweet smell of spices and herbs and chocolate wafted and made my coffee and pastry taste even better as I waited for the supermarket to open so we could go shopping.
Even in these early days of the trip we were used to having tests sprung on us and so, as the chefs waited for our trainer to turn up at the agreed meeting point, every minute she was late we got more nervous. Surely this was a test? Was this her way of forcing us to do the shopping by ourselves? Of getting us to use our initiative to find our way back to the hostel on public transport? Were we meant to start without her to show how we valued timekeeping? It was all too confusing. In the end she was just late of course and we breathed a sigh of relief, this time it was not a test. (Later in the trip I would wake up in a tent with Tarryn with the rain bucketing down outside and our departure time in just under an hour. Tarryn asked me sleepily if the rain was a test but I reassured her that the trainers did not have control of the weather and this one was just bad luck)
That night we went to a flamenco performance in Placa Reial which was awesome. Crazy guttural throat singing, stamping and waving of skirts all in an exotic location. Placa Reial has gone down as one of the places I really need to get back to, the square was lit with an orange glow that showed up the palm trees and white archways of the bars and restaurants like they were glowing from real fire. It took my imagination back to times of old spice traders and for some reason, Shakespeare’s Othello. A drink definitely needs to be had here in the future.
Our drive from Barcelona took us up to the French Riviera. Everywhere we went the scenery was new and exciting and here was no exception. Think clichéd Van Gogh paintings and you won’t be far off. We stopped by Fragonards (say it out loud, its fun) a family run perfumery where we were shown the perfume making process, and told about the position of ‘The Nose’. The Nose is the person who creates new perfumes, I think they said there are only about 50 of them in the world and it takes about 9 years of training to get the position. The girls on the trip loved it all and the guys even enjoyed it because of the pretty girls who took us around.
We stayed in Antibes which is in-between Cannes and Nice and it was there in that campsite that I had my biggest struggle. I had not had enough sleep for weeks, we had been tested too many times and we had just been given more study work than I thought I could handle. For the two nights we were in Antibes I was speaking to my family telling them that I was going to leave the trip once we got to our next stop, Florence. In my mind I was already planning what I was going to do for work once I got to the Netherlands. This was when the TT crew pulled together for me. People saw me falling apart and so many people came to talk me through it and give me the support I needed and this was part of what made me continue. The other part was arriving in one of my favourite cities, Florence and the feeling of calm that came over me as I walked down the streets made me think that maybe I could do it.
Back to Antibes. The best bit about Antibes was Monaco! We drove up to Monaco one night dressed up in the best clothes we had for a quick tour and fact finding. I fact found the Monte Carlo casino, the grand prix track, the best rooftop bar for views of the city and Buddha bar, a bar like I haven’t seen before that I promised I was coming back to. Monaco itself was an incredible place. The sort of place that you see in movies and think must be digitally created. Because it is such a small area it is FULL, no area is left bare, but it is all done beautifully. Roads gracefully curve over each other and towers rise high with delicate bridges built connecting them. Where there is a clear space it is green and manicured, probably with a fountain in it and everything is clean. We were only there for a few hours and I can’t wait to go back and really enjoy it from a rooftop or the Buddha bar.
Next stop Italy! A chef’s favourite destination!