Simply the world’s best breakfast

My career as a travel writer has taken me to more than sixty countries where I have enjoyed many memorable meals and while I don’t know about you, breakfast for me is the best meal of the day. A hearty and healthy breakfast can set you up until dinner time, especially when you’re travelling.

Several breakfasts stand out from my experiences ‘on the hoof’ as it were.

Unforgettable was beluga caviar for breakfast in Babolsar, a Caspian Sea resort in Iran. But equally memorable was a simple plate of fried egg and paratha when I awoke starving, one morning in Baltistan, a mountainous agency in north east Pakistan. Another breakfast I enjoyed was one Christmas in Bruges when the hotel served smoked eels for Asian guests. And loving eel, I have to confess to scoffing the lot before they came downstairs. Though many years ago now, I recall a splendid petit-dejeuner in a belle-epoque hotel overlooking Lake Geneva. Then just recently I found my pick of global breakfasts at the Grand Hotel in Kolkata.

While I’d travelled all over India, I had never been to Kolkata and as much as I wanted to visit the dowager city, I wanted to stay at the Grand, pleasure dome of society during the British Raj and jewel in the crown of the Oberoi hotels chain.

The surprise of this  majestic old hotel with its splendid location and attentive staff was the awesome breakfast devised by its executive chef, Saurav Banerjee, who presides over Oberoi’s restaurants enjoying a reputation for the best cuisine in town.

THE OBEROI GRAND  ON JAWAHARLAL NEHRU ROAD, KOLKATA DATES FROM THE 1870s.
SAURAV BANERJEE, EXECUTIVE CHEF AND MASTERMIND BEHIND THE SCENES. HOTEL GUESTS ARE INVITED TO HIS DAILY DISCUSSION ON BENGALI CUISINE
MORE THAN FIFTY DIFFERENT ITEMS FEATURE ON THE HOT AND COLD BREAKFAST BUFFET TABLES IN THE GHARANA RESTAURANT AT THE OBEROI GRAND.
TROPICAL FRUIT JUICES ARE PRESSED DAILY. MANGO MILKSHAKE (BOTTOM RIGHT) WAS MY IDEAL WAY TO START A DAY IN KOLKATA.
LASSI, SMOOTHIES AND AN ABUNDANCE OF FRUITS INCLUDE PAPAYA, PINEAPPLE, GUAVA, DRAGON FRUIT, BANANAS, MUD APPLE AND WATERMELON.
DELICIOUS GRANOLA BARS, FLAVOURED YOGHURTS AND MISTI DOI, A SWEET CURD WIDELY EATEN BY BENGALIS ARE MADE USING CREAMY BUFFALO MILK.
WHAT TO CHOOSE FROM THIS INVITING SELECTION OF CROISSANTS, DOUGHNUTS, MUFFINS AND BANANA BREAD? ALL ARE BAKED IN-HOUSE.
SUCH A VAST SPREAD WAS SERVED ON NEW YEAR’S DAY THAT BREAKFAST MOVED UPSTAIRS TO THE  OBEROI BALLROOM.
TRADITIONAL BENGALI BREAKFAST DISHES INCLUDE IDLI (RICE-FLOUR DUMPLINGS) AND SABUDANA KITCHIDI ( SAGO COOKED WITH PEANUTS, GINGER AND OTHER SPICES).
MORE FAMILIAR THINGS SUCH AS OMELET OR BACON AND EGGS ARE PREPARED BY ONE OF THREE ATTENDANT CHEFS
HERE I AM ENJOYING  POORI BHAJI AND HASH BROWNS WITH A SAMBAL SIDE DIP. NOTE THE MANGO MILKSHAKE.
COMPLIMENTARY PASTRIES FOR ANYONE WHO SLEEPS IN AND MISSES BREAKFAST ARE A THOUGHTFUL TOUCH BY CHEF BANERJEE.

 

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GREAT MOMENTS STAND OUT IN TRAVEL …

WHEN I WOULD THINK, WELL THIS IS WHAT I’VE COME TO SEE AND THE PHYSICAL AND AT TIMES THE PSYCHOLOGICAL DEMANDS OF THE EFFORT TO GET HERE HAVE BEEN MORE THAN WORTH IT.

The sight of the Grande Recife as our flight from Sydney approached Noumea, capital of the Pacific island of New Caledonia. The year was 1960 and it was my first holiday outside Australia so you can imagine my excitement! I spent days snorkelling in the great lagoon.

Pass in the Grand Recife off Noumea New Caledonia

While still a schoolgirl, I was captivated by a photo in the National Geographic of the source of the White Nile at Jinja. I vowed that one day I would see it for myself. This is the photo taken ten years later. I think it emphasizes that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Source of the White Nile near Jinja, Uganda

The foggy evening as I waited in the Star Ferry pier in Hong Kong for the night ferry to Macau. It was 1969 and the night was heavy with a sense of adventure. I stayed in the old   Hotel Bella Vista and played roulette in the floating casino, the only casino at the time.

night-ferry-to-macau

The awesome sight of Cheops, the great pyramid, when I drew back the curtains of my room at the Mena House Oberoi Hotel in Giza was one of the great moments of my travels. Egypt itself is special. I have been there at least half a dozen times.

Tour guides ride camels past Cheops pyramid Giza Egypt

The mysterious scratching sound made by the giant leaves of the coco-de-mer rubbing together in the Vallee de Mai on Praslin. On a visit to the Seychelles in the late 19th century, General Charles Gordon declared if there be a Garden of Eden on earth, it is here.

vallee-de-mai

 

On my 39th birthday in Peshawar, in the North West Frontier of Pakistan, I boarded the legendary Khyber Mail for a fascinating journey up the Khyber Pass. I was the only woman passenger with hundreds of tribesmen going home for the Muslim festival of eid ul fitr.

Khyber Mail in the pass Pakistan

The sight of the soaring dunes, originally known as the Wahiba Sands, took my breath away when I visited them from Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. The Bedouin woman in the photo had left her tent to bring in a stray goat for the night.

HUge sand dunes in the Sharqiya Province of Oman with a Bedouin woman searching for a stray goat

I cannot leave out the moment I was introduced to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth when I covered the British royal tour of the Arab states in 1979. Here she is meeting the sheikhs in Abu Dhabi. I was the only woman photographer on the tiring 17 day trip.

Queen meets the sheikhs in Qatar

Even though I used to pass it several times a week when I lived in London, the sight of Westminster Abbey, constructed more than two centuries before Captain Cook discovered Australia, always sent a frisson of excitement down my spine.

The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, London - "Westminster Abbey" at night.

This was the end of the road in Morocco when I had driven from Tangiers as far south in the Sahara as I could go. I mentioned this remote café in the book I was writing on Morocco. That’s my little car parked outside. I drove it more than 2,500 miles.

The terrible Cafe Lemsid, in the Western Sahara of Morocco

 

 

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ARE YOU A TRAVELER OR A TOURIST?

Airport flight monitor duty-free area Heathrow

Not long ago at a Sydney Writer’s Festival, I attended a discussion with Michelle de Kretser whose book Questions of Travel explores the travel phenomenon in a world where today millions of people are criss-crossing the planet like ants. 

Asked by the moderator to define the difference between a ‘tourist and a traveler’,  the award-winning author offered all sorts of theses ranging from people taking genuine holidays to those forced to uproot themselves, as in the case of refugees.

In between these extremes she said, are people traveling to seek work, to visit relatives and for medical reasons but she omitted — what is to me the essential difference between a tourist and traveler — which is time. 

Having no rigid itinerary or set destination, the traveler meanders rather like old man river, engaging with local citizens and absorbing local culture.

Slow travel while not necessarily the nine months Robyn Davidson took to cross Australia by camel and clearly not the thirty-five years taken by the 14th century Berber Ibn Batutta to travel between his native Tangiers and Quanzhou in China — is the only way to savor foreign lands.

People hurtling through a dozen and one countries taking selfies on their smart phones are tourists. Having booked a holiday, they know exactly when and from where they will return home, often having had no contact with locals except in hotels where the staff as likely as not are migrants from a different country.

For me slow travel  has always had priority over the must-see attractions rated on Trip Advisor or the recommendations by made by travel writers in articles answerable to advertising.

I think Elizabeth Bishop nails it in a line from her poem Questions of Travel (published in 1956) whose title Ms de Krester chose for her novel.

“But surely it would have been a pity/ not to have seen the trees along this road …”

BWK001_Christine Osborne with friendly Masai 1972
Masai women painting my face in Kenya in 1973
BW006_C.Osborne_Dubai_Bedouin_1975
Dates for breakfast with the Bedouin in Dubai in 1974

 

BWPAK004_Christine Osborne 41st birthday Sukkur Pakistan
With Mohana children on a houseboat on the Indus river in 1981
Christine Osborne in the incense souq in Salalah Oman
Discussing incense with  a trader in Salalah, Oman 2002.
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