That vital first step…

So just a more in depth update on my travels: About 2months ago I left England with a rucksack and only £600. I arrived in Rome and worked in a shipyard on the banks of the river Tiber in exchange for accommodation and food (that’s budget travelling for you) onboard a boat called African Queen.


Cooking Carbonara on the Tiber

Most days I spent learning new skills in the workshop and trying to get a grip of the language and occasionally cooking for the workers (Italians are a fussy bunch!) and evenings were spent either eating in nearby restaurants, fishing in the river or frequenting the nearby beach bars. When I had time off, Rome, The Eternal City was just a short train ride away. As a person who works in Hospitality it was incredible to watch and learn how the Italians really do things, pizza, pasta, aperitivo etc People told me how expensive the centre of Rome was so to those people I say ‘no, your taste is expensive’. I ate in a traditional restaurant with a view down the street to the colosseum and I paid £10 for a fantastic pizza, a beer and a coffee!

While working at the shipyard I managed to get a place onboard a 10m sailing boat called Primavera. They needed someone who could cook, I said I could cook and ‘voila!’…The plan being to deliver the boat to the owner in Barcelona via Sardinia.

We left Rome at dawn and by the time the sun was rising behind us we had our sails up and were on our way out of the safe waters of the river.

At lunch time it was time for me to cook. I decided on carbonara, as it’s simple and quick….

Lesson 1. Cooking ANYTHING on a boat at sea is not easy.

I whisked the egg with black pepper and Parmesan in a bowl and put it to one side as I stirred the pasta. When I went back to the egg, the bowl had shot off the table and covered our captains bed in a horrible eggy cheesy mix. I can cook…. On land.

During the crossing we awoke in the night to the boat violently rocking from side to side. There was a strong smell of diesel so me and Malachi Sisarich got out of our bunks to see what was going on. The floor in the main cabin (where we were all sleeping) was flooded with diesel, we both got up to try to mop up the diesel but it was no good while the boat rocked as much as it was. Malachi was thrown across the table as he tried to stand up, ripping the table out of the floor. After tying the table to the wall we went back to sleep, there was nothing else we could do except try to sleep. This was made more difficult when the rough sea exposed the leaking porthole above my head.

While we were sleeping, our experienced captain had to leave the rudder and jump on deck to secure the mast with yet more rope as the strong winds had snapped the supports to the mast of this old leaky boat.

I awoke 4hrs later to a calm sea and a clear sky, and took over the watch, allowing our understandably knackered captain to sleep. I sat at the rudder alone for 3 hrs using the stars and a compass as my guide. Primavera ploughed on, albeit a little crippled.

The storm had taken us north for 5hrs meaning it was both easier and wiser considering the state of the boat that we made our way to Corsica.

We arrived in Bastia, Corsica, sunburnt, stinking of diesel, in ripped clothes,2 of us with carbonara on our shirts and a mast being held up with rope.

We must have been quite a sight for the superyachts that we moored next to!

After finding out we were stuck for a week in Bastia I went and asked a few bars if they needed a hand over the weekend, the 3rd one I visited said yes!

So I worked the weekend in Le Colomba, shaking cocktails with a view across the harbour where Primavera sat wounded.

Almost a month has passed since I arrived on Primavera and I am still here! The bar has given me complete freedom, the name of the game being ‘don’t look at the cocktail menu, just get Sam to make you something’ I have full access to fresh Corsican fruits, herbs, flowers and liqueurs. They have a great Chestnut liqueur here as well as a strange fruit called Arbrouse. There is also a whisky from Corsica called P&M, I’ll be sure to bring a bottle back for all you whisky aficionados to try!

A local newspaper has also expressed interest in writing my story, both of my arrival here but also the project that I have set myself of creating a truly Corsican cocktail. They are a proud people, proud of their heritage and proud of the products that they produce. My mission is to express this in a drink. Every ingredient coming from this beautiful island…

Updates on this project coming soon….


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