The blog is ten years old today! I published the first post on 26 July 2011.
It all started with … well, where does anything truly begin? Was my trip to Kardamyli in 2011 the seed of the blog or the germinating? Or was the seed meeting my friend Anna, who lives in the Peloponnese, at a craft fair in Richmond where she was selling her beautiful jewellery? I already had a pair of her earrings; we got chatting; I said how much I’d like to visit Greece again and the lovely Anna offered to organise a trip for me, somewhere to stay. And hence I ended up in beautiful Kardamyli.
But I didn’t arrive thinking, Oh this is a good place to start a blog, even though it became the subject of my first posts. I’d never thought about writing a blog; they were quite new then although becoming more popular. No, the writing seed had been laying dormant for a time and the Greek sun gave it a little warm nudge: Time to get going. The Greek philosopher Demonsthenes (384BC) said that ‘small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises’. Now, I’m not claiming that my blog is a ‘great enterprise’, although it’s certainly a great and important part of my life, but Kardamyli was a ‘small opportunity’ – it was so lovely, such a great holiday, that it touched that seed in me that wished to write: I just had to write about it!
As a book editor, I have inevitably over the years often been asked whether I believe the well-known saying that ‘everyone has a book in them’. A lot of people like to believe it’s true. Having spent many years sifting through manuscripts or checking sets of proofs for my work, I can confidently say that I believe that not everyone has a good book in them. But sometimes my ego would intervene as I read a tedious, dull book and I’d think, I’m sure I could write a better book myself. I was buying into that idea that we all have a good book in us even though another part of me had rejected it. I did try writing a book … it’s lying unfinished in a dark corner of my computer … and I can tell you it’s a lot more difficult to do than you might think. Even the sheer hours spent actually just typing the words is a mission; I now have a lot more respect for writers. I’m always meaning to go back to it … my excuse is that I’m too busy editing or proofreading someone else’s book. But the blog … well that’s all stream-of-consciousness stuff … that’s sitting down and writing about some wonderful meal I’ve eaten, place I’ve visited, great recipe I’ve found, and typing away, checking it through once, and then pressing the Publish button. I don’t do drafts. I simply sit down and write. And while one day I may actually finish that book, I’ve meanwhile had ten fabulous years of writing and blogging.
Blogging should be a pleasure; it should be a bit spontaneous, I think, so it reads as if the writer is talking to you, thus it’s best to write about something you feel passionate about. I’ve always written about a variety of things – in fact, pretty much anything that connects to food and/or travel, however tenuous. I used – many years ago – to commission and edit cookery books (I still very occasionally edit one) and so writing up recipes is something I’m confident about. And food has always played a big role in my life. I came from a family where food was a passion – shopping in London’s Soho on Saturdays mornings; trying out new restaurants, even when I was only just big enough to sit at a table. My dad’s family were pub-restaurant owners and helping out in our own pub was how I earned pocket money in my teens. At 17 when my youngest brother was born, I took over being ‘chef’ in the kitchen during the school summer holidays, cooking for the pub’s restaurant as well as big events like weddings in the attached large hall. Hence I’ve never been fazed by cooking for a large number. But I did decide that kind of life wasn’t for me. So I turned to my other passion – reading – and went into book publishing.
That summer of 2011 seems a long time ago and much has changed yet the blog has remained fairly constant. I think it is one of the things that grounds me. I changed the name at one point (from The Single Gourmet and Traveller to the much more straightforward Travel Gourmet) yet in many ways it’s stayed the same. I like to think I’ve honed my writing skills a bit but in essence it’s still a blog about food and travel. Of course the latter has been challenged over the last 18 months of Covid; and even restaurant reviews have been temporarily put to rest, but the advantage of a broad-based blog was that I could continue to write. I was still cooking; I was finding out about how to get food during the first lockdown; I was taking a closer look at my home area rather than constantly rushing off to pastures new. And I found myself turning my posts into ‘stories’, writing in a slightly different but very enjoyable way.
I’ve always liked a mix of old and new when travelling. There are favourite places – and restaurants – I return to again and again. ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man’ wrote the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus. I like being in a familiar city – Amsterdam, Turin or perhaps Venice – and knowing it well enough to not rely on a guide or map; knowing where to get a great meal – or gelato! – but also finding new places. There are always new places and I will not be quite the same person I was a year or so before.
The blog has brought much joy. I’ve made new friends – other bloggers, restaurateurs, cafe owners, followers – and it’s stretched me a bit. Especially travelling solo a lot, the thought of being able to write something new on the blog has pushed me in a good way to go a bit further … take that bus out of the city, climb that hill, start up conversations with people in restaurants, do a bit more research than I might otherwise do. It’s been great to share my experiences and I’m so grateful to all you loyal followers who have been there with me in spirit and sending Likes and Comments.
So, to quote another famous Greek philosopher, Plato, ‘The beginning is the most important part of the work.’ Yet where was the beginning? Was it those foodie places my parents took me to as a child? Was it my love of reading? Was it the books I edited in my publishing work? Was it the divorce that launched me into a lot of solo travelling? Was it Anna introducing me to beautiful Kardamyli? Was it the desire to write in whatever way worked best for me? What’s certain is that what’s kept me going through a whole decade of blogging is the support and encouragement I’ve received: from family, friends, followers, restaurateurs, and GPSmyCity who asked to publish my travel articles back in 2016. So, sorry, Plato, perhaps the beginning – whatever it was – wasn’t the most important part. I’m not sure there is a ‘most important’ part. For me it’s just become part of my journey in life – a record of parts of my life; the development of a skill – writing – that brings me satisfaction and pleasure; a way to connect to people. The blog is many things – but above all, it’s fun!
Thank you to all my followers, old from the first days, to new from recent days – you are all important and hopefully you’ll enjoy reading Travel Gourmet over the next ten years!