Category Archives: travel tales from faraway

I’m really proud of these little stories. One day there’ll be more :)

Final Borgo – a little finale before the final finale

We’d had a quick swim along the coast, just west of Genova, and then Paolo turned inland. “I have something special planned for you today.” So we drove through Finale Ligure (a modern city that hugs the coast road) and started climbing and winding towards the old city, to Final Borgo, perched high on a defensive hill overlooking its newer version and the Med in the distance.

We were heading to the Osteria del Castel Gavone.

But it was a Monday.

And it was closed.

osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo

Until they decided to open it.

For us.

For us … alone.


They call him Sweet Talkin’ Paolo” :)


osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo interior

So we settled ourselves in the primo position on their astounding little terrace.

With a 180 degree view that looks north towards a deep gorge and its eclectic castles…

osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo terrace

East to the valley and villas below …

view from osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo

And south to Finale Ligure and a turquoise horizon.

terrace osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo

All without leaving our seats.

view from osteria-del-castel-gavone, final borgo

And given it was a Monday and they weren’t prepared and we’d caught them unawares, well they just threw together what they had on hand. And it was splendid. What look like chips are actually panisse, a local dish made from chick pea flour and water. I’ve tried David Lebovitz’s recipe at home and it worked a treat.


Andrea and Catia. Molto molto grazie. Your generosity was one of the highlights of our visit to Liguria and for me, one of the highlights of the whole trip away. Such a beautiful, beautiful setting. Soooo beautiful! And with a church right opposite we found ourselves once again saying “Maddy could get married here! Or Darce!” :)

andrea and catia


There is a famous walk you can do in Final Borgo. It’s called The Ring.

Paolo knew there was a path from the restaurant so the boys took the lead …

the boys lead the way

And despite there being little evidence of any path, we followed their path …

the girls follow

Until we found the real path.

finding the path

Which eventually became a bigger path that took us past another castle …

walking down to the historic village of final borgo

walking the ring final borgo

And into the heart of the old city.

final borgo

final borgo

It’s a solid walk on a hot day but a spectacular way to finish an especially special day.

walking the ring final borgo

Final Borgo … add it to your Ligurian wish list :)


I have one more tale from Liguria to share and I have to apologise for how absent I’ve been here at the blog but we’ve had Darcy sitting his final school exams and Madeleine in her final semester of fashion design at uni. It’s been a pretty tense collision course over the past few months, perhaps more for their mother than for them. I’m sure they would beg to differ 😉  But just know that I’ve missed our conversations and as a new chapter opens not just for them, but for us, I’m hoping to be back here more often. Exciting times ahead me thinks. Hope you’ll stick around. Lotsa love.  xx


‘Today we go to France!’

Every day Paolo is up at 5 am checking the weather.

‘Today we go to France!’ he declares one morning. ‘The weather in France iz good today.’

Ok. If we must … we shall go to France.

Roquebrune Cap Martin

Just across the Italian border on the French Riviera you can park your car at Cap Martin and there’s a walk that takes you around the point towards Monaco.

cap-martin-looking east to Menton

There were signs saying “No swimming off the rocks” but we couldn’t find any that said “No skinny dipping.”

Ever discreet.

cap martin walk

A nice little private bathing pavilion – if you have a spare gazillion.

cap martin beach shack

Mansions aplenty on our right all along the path – hidden behind lush, dense gardens – but the rocky coastline, its turquoise nooks and the Bay of Roquebrune with Monaco in the distance was the big drawcard.

cap martin walk

looking across to monaco

cap martin walk

monaco yacht and swimmers

Some lunch, an Aussie swim (that is, getting your hair wet and swimming out past the poseurs), a quick train hop back to Cap Martin, a couple of cheap last minute rooms on, a freshen up and a drive into the Provencal hinterland.

We were hoping to get to St Paul de Vence but the Var River blocked our path and rather than detouring miles to cross it, we found ourselves wandering instead in a little hilltop village called Aspremont.

aspremont doorway


Lots of purples. My kind of town.


Zen had had a long hot day, the most well traveled dog of any I know.

aspremont and zen

aspremont village

A winding run back into Nice where we had possibly the worst meal of the trip.

‘This … izz shiiiit.  I’m sorrrry but thizzz … thizzz izz survival food.  Tomorrow we go back to Italy!”

Ok. If we must … tomorrow we go back to Italy.



Traditional spaghetti alla marinara … in which Paolo reveals his mother’s secret ingredient

I learn something in the kitchen every time we visit these guys.

They are great cooks. Not flash chefs, just seriously good cooks, using the best of what’s on hand which in Liguria tends towards vegetables, seafood and salads.

In nine days at Sottovalle, we did 2700kms worth of day trips into the mountains and all along the coastline. Long, happy days filled with good food, big walks and plenty of laughter. But today was a rest day.

The boys had been sent down to Aquarta Scrivia earlier in the morning to get some seafood – any excuse to visit ‘The Office’ – read plane tree covered cafe spilling with pastries.

The recipe is below but I’m going to point out a few tips I learnt along the way …

It all starts with parsley and one and a half small cloves of garlic. Don’t overdo the garlic. Chop together finely and divide into two. One half is held back and added right at the end.


Now the secret ingredient…

2 anchovy fillets (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times under water.

(A later P.S. to this … I can’t find anchovies under salt so I’ve used the little ones in oil. I’ve made it twice and the second time I used about 8 little anchovies and it benefited from the extras)


chilli jar

Normally I would heat my pan and then add my first ingredients. But no!

Put them into a cold pan and VERY, VERY gently bring up the temperature and fry them off.

gently frying

If the garlic burns you MUST start again.

frying off parsley garlic anchovies chilli

Mussels, clams and prawns measured by the handful.

clams mussels prawns

Clams soaked in salt water to get rid of any muck.

Mussels steamed in a separate pan. Remove from their shells and don’t keep the juice. These guys regard it as dirty.

clams soaking


The squid is very gently fried and then the temperature turned off till we are ready with everything else.

frying off the squid

Get yourself a couple of handy prawn peelers.

steve and paolo peeling prawns


Back on the heat and the mussels and clams are added.

mussels added

clams added

Throw in the prawns, a few chopped tomatoes, a little glass of white wine and cover till the clam shells open.

tomatoes and parsley and garlic

table and garden

Meanwhile bring your pasta water to the boil and you know when they say “Add salt.”  Add salt!


When the pasta is cooked and stirred in with the seafood, that’s the moment to add your remaining garlic and parsley. It adds a note of freshness right at the end.



Find yourself a pretty setting and some good company.


And allora! Spaghetti alla marinara Forest View B&B style courtesy of Louise & Paolo and Paolo’s mama.

louise and paolo


Thanks for sharing lovelies.

Enjoy  xx


Spaghetti alla Marinara

1 and 1/2 cloves of garlic
A small handful of fresh parsley
2 anchovies (under salt!) washed and rinsed three times in fresh water
(If you can’t get them under salt I used 8 small ones in oil)
1 chopped, dried red chilli
Extra virgin olive oil

A handful of prawns (when peeled)
A handful of squid
2 handfuls of clams
2 handfuls of mussels

1 little glass of white wine, say …  half an Australian glass of white wine.

A handful of chopped fresh tomato.




1. Cover the base of a fry pan in extra virgin olive oil. No heat yet.

2. Chop the garlic and parsley finely and add half to the pan. Reserve the other half till the end.

3. Wash the anchovies three times under fresh water. Chop and add to pan.

4. Chop 1 dried red chilli and add to the pan.

5. Very gently bring the heat up and fry and stir till the anchovies dissolve into the mix. The mixture MUST NOT burn. If it does you MUST start again. It’s a very gentle process.

6. Add your chopped squid to the pan and fry gently.

7. Add the prawns and mussels. Stir gently.

8. Add the clams, tomatoes and white wine. 

9. Stir and cover till clam shells open.

10.Turn off heat till pasta is al dente.


Meanwhile …

11. Bring pasta water to boil. Add plenty of salt. Cook spaghetti till al dente.

12. Drain spaghetti. Pour into the seafood pan.

13. Add the remaining chopped parsley and garlic and toss gently.

13. Pour into a warmed platter and serve.

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