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Artistic Enlightenment (Shortly Followed by Cake)

Long needed were those mornings where, upon awakening, the glorious sensation hits that you have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever. So used to rude awakenings by a shrill 7am alarm and mounds of tasks to accomplish, these few mornings had been the biggest gift. A sleepy trip to Great Market Hall was needed, however, to pick up an assortment of compulsory holiday gifts.  Tiny bags of paprika (interestingly translated from Hungarian to “red gold”) were mandatory of course, complete with tiny hand-carved wooden spoons, traditional candies, marzipan chocolates and tiny bottles of palinka – one way of getting around the 100ml liquid restriction on flights. I lazily strolled around the great hall, walking up and downstairs in search for more surprises (and a steaming cup of coffee). I braved my way back into the crispy morning air to navigate around Vaci street to find some breakfast, stumbling on Mantra Specialty Coffee Minibar on narrow side road, snugly hid amidst larger shops and apartments – mini was definitely the word for it. Inside, you hang your …

Moodapest

When snow turns to slush, it’s a sad sad day. The drizzly weather and dark grey fog overcast Budapest, the misery of the dirty snow, turned icy mess, proliferated. We spent the afternoon walking from Corvin to the Great Market Hall, winding up and down roads and alleys, arriving at a wall of fog at Liberty bridge; the white clouds engulfed the bridge, leaving just a little in sight for cars and trams to drive on to. Still unfamiliar with the city, it was impossible to tell where we were from looking out across the river – there was nothing to be seen, just a wall of white swallowing the landscape. My hair dampened as I took photos, walking up and down the river around the bridge entrance to catch the light of Budapest’s yellow trams snaking through the fog. Clearly, about thirty others had the same idea, photographers and iPhone-bearers swarming around the area promptly. Night began to fall and the spookiness of the fog grew, and we dawdled away down to Vaci street …

The Taste of a Memory

Continuing the pattern of drifting slowly through the Summer days, I traveled across the small Bulgarian town to my dad’s friend’s villa; an amazing little place high up in the hills overlooking the town. The wooden house held two floors and a balcony. Fruit trees bore beautifully ripe apricots and peaches, and chickens roamed in a small allotment amongst flowers and shrubs and plants; a dream location. We then continued on drifting to try and find some particular spices that we’ve longed for for many a year in our home cooking; chubritsa, regan and a kind of cumin. Often used in marinades or in meat and fish meals, to me it’s the smell of Bulgaria. Most notably the chubritsa and cumin truly MAKES a kufte – a Bulgaria “meatball” (basically a tiny burger). Mothers’ meeting. Venturing into my grandma’s building’s long-unopened cellar whilst back home, my dad and I went to find his old camera film developing equipment; cobwebs entangled abandoned possessions from long ago and dust thickly coated boxes and books and barrels. The …

The Food of Gods

The next morning after arrival brought yet another familiar scent that brought joy to every inch of my body; banitsa. Banitsa is a Bulgarian feta cheese “pie”; a common street food around the whole of the country, we often cook it on Sundays or mainly for special occasions (most notably christmas and new year when we fill the banitsa with kusmeti – “lucks”). My grandma had woken early to go out and buy a variety of banitsas, four in fact for us to try, all of which I happily inhaled after a peaceful night. One was a regular style banitsa, that tasted a lot like Brazilian pastel but with feta cheese, but was very different from one I’ve always had at home. Another was with rice, which I have made previously but also with spring onions and spinach. The third was Tutmanik – a banitsa bread, made with bread not filo pastry. The last was called “washed” banitsa, which I believe to be made with blanched filo sheets which are slightly thicker than usual. Some …

Boats and Goodbyes

When all good things come to an end, go out in style. And what better way to say goodbye to Recife than to take a catamaran down its famous river. But first we made sure to visit Francisco Brennand’s ceramic studio; a contemporary sculpture artist in Brazil and son of Riccardo Brennand, he displays hundreds of his sculptures in his massive studio space, doubling as a great gallery filled with gardens, water fountains and pools and theatres. His work exudes sensuous symbols and seem highly iterative of one another, being fairly abstract and range in form whilst being highly similar in style. He’s also well known to create floor and wall tiles for construction, beautifully decorated and painted by a team of hard-working locals who can be seen hard at work amongst the open galleries in the studio. And if you visit beware of some evil looking swans roaming around the gardens… Hurridley, we rushed straight after to the catamaran, sure we had missed it, but managed to jump aboard and set sail down the …

Porto de Galinhas

Riding down miles of clear road does wonders for clearing the mind. And as the sun finally peeked through layered pillows of slowly shifting rain clouds, ones that had been haunting Recife for far too long, I was elated. Porto de Galinhas, literally “Port of the Chickens/Chicken Port”, is only an hour and a half away or so from Recife is the host to one of the most beautiful beaches Brazil has to offer. Whenever a local asked where we were visiting during my trip, the first suggestion they had that rolled off their tongues without hesitance was Porto de Galinhas – and for good reason. Driving into the area was even magical, forests of palm trees encompassing the port swaying in the breeze, little to no traffic, and colourful cafes and small shops lining the roads. Once you stroll for a few minutes through some pedestrianised streets filled with shops selling a variety of beach-wear, food and drinks you arrive at the beach and it’s nothing short of stunning; all you need to do …

At the Copa, Copacabana

To comfort a failed attempt at visiting Rio’s famed Botanical Gardens (who doesn’t have card machines anyway these days???????????) condensed milk popcorn was in order, and yes you heard that right; condensed milk is extremely popular throughout Brazil, it being used as a topping for cakes, doughnuts, ice cream, fruits and more. Including popcorn. On the streets of both Rio and Recife are tiny vendors selling popcorn, salty or sweet. The salty variety is usually topped with something called Bottle Butter – which is exactly as it sounds. The contrary is coated in a slightly crunchy caramel and topped with runny condensed milk. When consuming make sure to have some napkins and bottled water to dribble on your fingers when done, the popcorn makes a rather sticky, yet un-regrettably tasty, mess. In the hopes of being second time lucky with seeing Christ, we abandoned plans to see Ipanema beach and hurried to Corcovado. At night the statue is illuminated and has a supposedly beautiful view of the sunset over Rio. But alas, as if luck …

Bread of Sugar

On the quest to be the ultimate tourist, hitting all the hot spots Rio could dish up, Sugarloaf mountain was next on the list. If you’re not afraid of extremely high cable car journeys and viewing platforms 396m above sea level then this trip is for you. And if you are afraid you should cut the crap, put on you hat of bravery and get yourself up there anyway. Even with misty sky and lurking clouds in the horizon, the vistas were stunning. Well worth the albeit slightly terrifying cable car trip. Its comical name Pão de Açucar (literally bread of sugar/sugar bread) was coined in the 16th century by the Portuguese during the heyday of sugar cane trade in Brazil; when transported the sugar was placed in conical moulds made of clay, shaped in a similar peak to the mountain. Lunch called for more traditional Brazilian food as we headed to a common style of restaurant/cafe. The seemingly untitled restaurant was bustling, yells travelling from the tiny kitchen port window to the main cashier …

Rainy Spells and Fernandez & Wells

Misty dreary days with spluttering skies seem the idyllic setting for train journeys, a perfect time to simply rest your head against the rattling train window, let your mind wander and watch the countryside roll by. These days I grow ever fonder of what should be a long and bleak journey on a slow train, which is remarkably lighter on my budget yet heavier on my time. Spring’s rainy yet warming embrace has painted the fields of England golden yellow and vibrant green, speckled with grazing lambs, calfs and ponies. Today the sky seeps down towards the earth in an enveloping fog and unannounced sporadic drizzle, but alas, it’s not such a sullen scene, perhaps refreshing, alternate, melancholic (in the best of ways). Looking downwards the carriage I glance towards fellow train goers, heads bobbing in sync with the sways and bumps of the train rattling over the tracks. A serenity fills the air. An unexpected bout of design interviews brings me back to London, and I have to peel myself away from the comfort of …

Heavenly AirBnBs

Three reasons I love my AirBnB: The beautiful apartment and neighbourhood we’re staying in; from the beautiful rich wooden floor to the cultural art and ceramics all over the walls and floors, this place is something from a dream. The super lovely mum of the host; the host is currently abroad for work but his mum usually greets his guests. And she’s the ultimate apartment must-have (not to objectify). From lending me hats and sarongs to giving advice on where to go to just saying Bom Dia with a sincere smile, she is truly an ace lady. The cost and convenience; paying a tiny fraction of the cost of a standard hotel and the location being so so convenient (right in the centre and by Christ) this apartment was the ultimate God Send.