“Food and holidays seem always to have been inextricably linked. As a young child in the fifties I remember my parents renting a house in rural Spain. It seemed very exotic with huge cacti in the garden and lizards venturing indoors. One evening the lady who came each day to clean returned with a large, shallow pan and made paella over an open fire. I still love authentic paella. The following year the men who ran the garage under our holiday rental in Portugal invited us to share the bucket of snails they'd collected from all around the town.
Whenever I visit a place where crab is landed one of the first things I want is a crab sandwich: soft, brown bread, white and dark meat, butter, pepper. That's all. And that's just what I had last week during our house swap to Lymington.
We returned from an exchange to Kent in July to find a pot of home-made gooseberry jam in the fridge. Our swapees had brought a glut from their garden and said how nice it was to find a well equipped kitchen. Not that our kitchen is anything special. It just has all the things you'd expect to find in someone's home.
Home swaps have seen me try several things for the first time: Guiness in Dublin; churros in Sitges; fondue and chicken nuggets in Switzerland (yes, chicken nuggets were on lots of menus and very tasty they were too); Homity pie in Devon and good, traditionally brewed British beer whenever I can. I'm also a great lover of a decent glass of wine and love browsing in independent wine shops both at home and abroad.
I love food shopping when I'm away, especially in markets, but there's just no point if you've nowhere to cook. My favourite markets are in Biarritz and Venice and although we loved browsing in La Boqueria we much preferred the daily neighbourhood market close to our exchange apartment, an area without tourists and cheaper prices.
And if you agree to ‘share’ store cupboards then cooking in a house swap home means you have so many of the basics to hand.
The money we save on accommodation means we often splash out on food and drink while we're away, usually with knowledgeable local advice from our hosts. Last week we ate at the delightful Mill at Gordleton, just a few minutes from our home from home. We've indulged in cocktails at the Morse Bar in the Randolph Hotel, Oxford, dined in Michael Caines' Abode in Exeter and had lunch on the river terrace of a smart hotel in Zurich.
We've got all this here in Tooting too, lots of bars and restaurants, from the cafe on the common to fine restaurants with crisp, white linen, and a large covered, permanent market as well as London’s West End right on your doorstep.” – Sandra Newnham, London
The photo is of Sandra’s husband, Paul, in Nice. Click here to see their home exchange offer in London.