Londres

Because clearly having two sets of visitors and a move isn’t enough for one month, we had also booked a trip to London in November.

I was even more badly prepared than usual, because of the move and everything still in boxes and bags and the rest being pretty chaotic. I spend hectic 20 minutes going through all kinds of things to find my oyster card and the adapters, for example. The night before we left I had a look around what markets Time out London recommended and that was about it.

We left at 10 am. From the new apartment it’s really just 5 metro stops to gare du nord, so no stress. There were lots of people because an earlier Eurostar had been canceled and there were nervous pensioners in the queue. I can’t stand people who cut the queue at all and in France it’s not as uncommon as I’d like it to be. When there was a couple who cut in line in front of us I started complaining to Gergö about it, but didn’t say anything to them because they weren’t English, so I couldn’t say “You bring shame upon your country!”

Other than me getting unnecessarily upset by retired French people, the trip was okay and we arrived in St Pancras sans problèmes. We couldn’t take the underground though, because my oyster card was depleted, so we needed to recharge it. The machine wouldn’t accept any of our cards, though, so we had to find an ATM. The ATM seemed to work just fine, right up until the moment when it said, sorry, I can’t give you money right now. Only the third of three finally gave us pounds in cash and for a hefty fee. Then we only had to queue for an oyster card machine that accepted bills. Easy!

Because we liked the area so much the last time, we booked a hotel on brick lane again.  (I just re-read my blog post from then – I did the exact same thing like last year and went to the fancy chocolate shop for hot chocolate and took photos). We went there directly to deposit our luggage and went in search of the near by cat café to pass time until check-in. It was already full, though, so we ended up in a hipster pub drinking our first lunch beer within an hour or so of our arrival.

Most of the brick lane markets open only on Saturday and Sunday, so in the afternoon we decided to go to Battersea power station. I had read that there’s a “craft” market there, whatever that means and an old power station seemed like a good venue.

We took a bus and walked 3/4 of a circle around the power station in the cold, because the market was actually in an area that can only be accessed from Chelsea bridge and we didn’t know that. The market itself was disappointing and small and we were cold. I’m sure in nicer temperatures the area is quite lovely, (think museum quarter but smaller and less central) but as a lot of it is still under construction or very new it has a bit of a soulless vibe.

We returned back into town by river taxi. You can use your Oyster card for the boat and it’s scarily efficient going from Battersea back to London bridge, stopping for 30 seconds at every stop despite the access bridge being lowered and raised manually. I had promised a friend to take a photo of Big Ben, but I had forgotten that it’s under scaffolding right now (I can hear Gergö going “Big Ben is not the tower, it’s the bell!” but even Wikipedia thinks it can refer to both.)

We went to Old Street to meet with Gergö’s brother and ended up in yet another hipster pub. It was even called Craft Beer. When we entered Gergö thought for a second it’s a gay bar, because there were hardly any women inside.

A. showed us another pub, that was another 8 on the hipster scale with a vegan jackfruit burger on their menu. The burger was no longer available but the halloumi kimchi burger was good as well.

Saturday we looked at the various markets on and around brick lane (food! t-shirts! jewellery! more food! yet more food! streetart! So much awesome streetart! vintage clothing). We started the day off with the best pork roll I ever had. It had a fried goose egg! It was from a stall called swine dining. You know the kind – with a beardy dude really passionate about his product who tells you all about the breed of pig they are using that only exists in one place in Britain. I immediately grabbed what I thought was a plastic egg, put there for decoration. Well, it was a real goose egg, which I carefully put back on the pile. Re-reading my other blog post about our last London trip, a lot of the street art has changed. At least I didn’t notice many identical photos.

Later that day we ended up in Spitalfields market. There happened to be a craft beer and independent label thing at Spitalfields market. To Gergö’s amusement I insisted on bringing my little wheelie suitcase to London and not a backpack like Gergö. He stopped making fun of this fact when we started purchasing cans and bottles of beer from the many many stalls. Fruit infused pale ales are all the rage, chocolate/coffee stouts and porters are still popular. We also bought a spiced Christmas ale.

I thought we’d buy a drink or two and maybe a bottle if we liked it a lot. But the stalls handed out little cups to try, so it was our duty, really to try to support as many craft breweries as possible.

On Sunday we walked to Broadway market by recommendation of Gergö’s brother. The walk there led us past another flea market and Columbia road flower market, which is also very nice.

A man sitting at a table with four chess boards and a sign CHESS 4 FUN

Chess 4 Fun!

And Hackney city farm, so we visited the animals.

Broadway market is closed on Sunday, except for a very small Christmas market in a courtyard. There were people doing yoga outside in 5 degree weather. It was so disturbing to me, I couldn’t even appreciate the stall selling eggs that called itself “laid” and the obvious joke that went with it.  I was freezing by then and really needed to warm up somewhere inside. So we had a lovely meal at a place that ticked all the Verena breakfast boxes and consoled me a little bit about the fact that I couldn’t have a breakfast burrito at hola guacamole because the stall wasn’t open yet, when we walked past in the morning.

poached egg: check
Avocado: check
cuppa: check
fried mushrooms: check and win.

On our way back I felt human enough to take pictures again and fantasize with Gergö about him opening a hipster sourdough bakery in a former brewery.

We went through the food hall one last time to pick up dinner for our journey home. I was pretty convinced that I’d want to try Ethiopian food, but Gergö was sceptical about transportability of the food. It was a little messy, but it was so worth it. The Lithuanian stall is still here.

 

 


Retour de Bordeaux

We just returned from a weekend in Bordeaux. The weather was what is probably normal in Bordeaux in November – it rained quite a bit. But we had a few good walks along the Garonne and in the city. The quay along the Garonne is nice, there are people walking, youth playing football, others drinking beer or enjoying the view.

We stayed in an airbnb that was unlike any other apartment I ever stayed in. It was decorated to within an inch of its life in 18th century style. There was a lot of furniture, silk wallhanging (I guess it’s not called paper if it’s made from silk?), paintings, and decorative items. The rooms were high. I don’t mean Vienna Altbau high, but even higher. Our bedroom had a walk in closet that was visible from the outside in that it was a little bay attached to the outside of the building. I want to say the sentence whenever there is the opportunity to do it, so please forgive my German: Es kragt aus der Kubatur des Gebäudes hervor.
The other bedroom had paintings that were pages of a book on what we thought were really elaborate cakes, but what turned out to be things in aspic. There was a painting of what looked like a samurai disembowel someone in the bathroom. The sitting room had a chaise longue and a sofa, and there were fireplaces in every room. Ours was clad in wood, which I’d never seen before.

We went with a friend who really likes good food, so we asked our host for recommendations. On Friday night we went to the Brasserie Bordelaise (Bordelaise is the adjective for Bordeaux, nothing to do with brothels, by the way). It was one of those places were you have to wait for 40 minutes and I was surprised Gergö was willing to do it. He hates standing around, always in the way of waiters. But we ordered a glass of wine and were told about Chartreuse and it was worth the wait. Just like the fancy Italian place we went to in autumn, you had to go downstairs and through their fancy wine cellar to get to the loos.


On Saturday we had to check out the recommended chocolate store. There was an entire group of American tourists from a cruise ship in the shop and were were mistaken for one of them. We later bumped into the same group while exploring Bordeaux.

Pralines

It’s a very walkable city, and there are lots of nice little shops and boutiques and boulangeries selling canelés and more chocolatiers. I got a praline thé earl grey, and it was good, but I think I preferred the one with yuzu Gergö had. There are of course also all of the regular shops you find in any European city and the streets with these shops were crowded on Saturday. If I’m not shopping and only strolling, I don’t mind the cro      wds much, though.

We walked in the drizzle to the musée du vin. It’s fairly new and the building itself is round and shaped like a decanter. It’s 3.6 kilometres from the center and as we got there we saw that the queue to see the museum was very long. By that time the drizzle had become a steady rain, so we took the tram back into town.

musee du vin

There is no easy way out

There is no easy way out

Opposite the museum is a lock

Opposite the museum is an interesting lock

In a move that will surprise no one, but is still a little ironic, given that it’s a region famous for its wine, we visited a local artisanal beer store and got some local special brews. It’s called Jaqen and I made several “A man needs a beer” joke that everybody politely ignored. Then we explored the other local specialities in one of those specialities and booze shops were you can barely move for the selection of wine, rum and canned cassoulet.

A kilo of cassoulet au canard

A kilo of cassoulet au canard

We bought beer, of course. The shop sold 3 or 4 different kinds of insects to eat, but we didn’t get them because we already tried those and I didn’t like the taste at all and I think Gergö didn’t think they were particularly good either.

We had dinner at an art deco style restaurant where I had excellent veal and a dessert made from macaron and mousse au chocolat. Gergö and K went for cheese. It must have been excellent, judging by the happy sounds that came from Gergös direction. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to disturb our attempt at playing adults.

Sunday morning we went to the market on the quai and it was excellent. I saw what a lamprey is supposed to look like and we bought some cheese that is stinking up the train compartment as I write. There was also something that looked like potato puffer but bright green. They are a regional speciality made with spinach or chard and they were delicious.

 


À l’autre côté de la Manche

We had a comparatively uneventful Saturday in London. Gergö needed a new pair of shoes and since I occasionally like to shop, he suggested we do that. I fall for it every single time: I think “oh shopping, we’ll find some stores and check out shoes”. When I want to go to a market I look at everything, touch a whole lot of things, maybe even try on something.

When Gergö needs a new pair of shoes he walks into the first shoe store, locates the chucks, asks for his size, tries them on, decides it’s too much hassle to ask for a different color, because it’s full and loud. Blue will do. Pays and leaves. “Shopping” lasted only about 15 minutes because it took the salesperson 10 minutes to find the right size.

We also wanted to try out an ice bar, where you can have a drink at minus 5 degrees. We found the ice bar pretty quickly, but we would have had to wait for an hour to get a seat. So we decided to go to the Porterhouse instead. It’s an Irish Brewery that has a few pubs in Dublin and one in London. Gergö actually really said “Who drinks beer in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday?” The answer to that turned out to be: pretty much everyone in London who isn’t shopping on Oxford street at that moment. Northern Ireland was playing Belgium (I think) and we were very lucky to find a table. The only reason it was ailable was, because it didn’t have a view of the screen.

Gergö likes the Porterhouse beer but mostly I think he likes that he can get a set of three small beers to try.

Porterhouse beer

From there we wandered on to the Brewdog Pub. It’s a lot hipper than Porterhouse, with a much higher bushy beard quota. The best part of all that hipness are the names, of course. My favourite has to be Faceless Spreadsheet Ninja. The beer is so-so, but the name is great. I didn’t try weird beard, but I guess I have enough of this at home.

brew dog beer signs

You can get several very small beers there as well, Gergö was very happy.

brewdog beer

Don’t get me wrong, I like beer, but unlike him I didn’t feel the need to send a picture of every single beer we drank while in London to my BFF.

Towards the evening we wandered back to Brick Lane, so I could check out the chocolate store of choclatey goodness. The smell alone!

At this point my camera lense was pretty smeared and the photos came out worse than usual. It might have had something to do with the availability of greasy street food. Despite the “priced out of London”-penguin, we had dinner in the courtyard of a former brewery with food trucks named things like “meat porn” under a giant bow and arrow.

caboose with bow and arrow

While leaving we noticed that there was another market advertised for Sunday. I’m always a bit nervous about missing trains and planes on travel days, so I never want to do much. Another market close to the hotel seemed great.

There was so much food. We had about £ 5 left, so we had to make a very careful choice. We ended up trying a Lithuanian meatball fillled with cheese, with potatoes and some filled pasta. It was delicious. We also bought coffee from a guy who had converted his black cab, so that the roof could be raised. I was too intimidated by the big beard to take a photo (only hald kidding).

It was great, I could have stayed much longer, but our return train left at 2 pm. The check in process was even longer and worse organised on the return trip. And unlike France the UK didn’t even have the friendly passport guy who said “Auf Wiedersehen!” to me. And just as I smugly wanted to tell Gergö about it, assuming he wouldn’t get a similar treatment, he said he was greeted with “Jó napot kívánok!”.

I tried the automated passport controls this time and they are so much slower than the human ones. Sadly the person who oversaw the process couldn’t answer any of my questions. He only knew that the machines had been there for only two weeks, but not how often they failed, how long it takes on average, and all these interesting facts.

The return train was much nicer and had two different outlets per two seat

european and british outlet

 


Troisième tour

After J & C left, we had a couple of days without visitors. I mostly work a few hours every day, but I hadn’t worked much during visits, and a website I’m working on was due. So I used those days to buckle down and catch up with work. After being shut in at home looking at a screen for such a long time, I decided to visit my favourite café in town.

I brought my computer as an alibi, but I was ready to be distraced and I wasn’t disappointed. The café owner is a very cheerful woman who often chats with the customers and generally radiates a good mood. And she is really well informed about Palaiseau commerce. I first heard about the Domino’s Pizza from her. And she also knows that there will be a Portuguese epicerie (like a deli) opening up where the bookstore used to be. She also knows that a Picard will open in town. It’s one of those shops that sells only frozen food.

Because the owner is often chatting across the café, sometimes the customers get into conversations with each other and I feel like I can ask questions and join in in the conversations. This time two people were discussing books – la ligne verte. It took me a while to figure out that it’s the Green Mile by Stephen King. They said livre (book) a couple of times, but also bouquin. So I asked how the meaning differs and when to use the two words. I only knew it as used book from the bouquinists, the used book dealers with their green stalls along the Seine.

The women were kind enough to explain the difference. Mostly it’s a colloquial word for book or used book. They wouldn’t use it to refer to a classic work of literature, but just a novel, something that’s probably not considered art, but entertainment.

My question led to them asking where I am from, which led to me explaining that, yes, the current political situation in Austria is quite shocking. It was right after the first round of the presidential elections. The results even made it into the French news. It was challenging to explain my opinion on it all, and I learned quite a few new words that will come in handy, in case I’ll have to apologise for being Austrian in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, nobody asks or expects me to do it, I just kind of feel it’s necessary if 35% of voters vote for le candidat d’extrême droite. I don’t think people who did vote for him consider him an extremist, but Europe certainly does.

After all that serious conversation the guy who works at Domino’s showed up as well. He was really looking forward to starting his new job there and he’s pretty sure that it will be a big success. I agree with him – there are a lot of pizza places in Palaiseau already, but this one is really close to the school and a very short walk from the train station. Everybody coming home by train will walk past in the evening. I’m kind of hoping Gergö will get inspired by the presence of it as well. Mostly because I was shown the menu and they have Pizza with chèvre and figs.

From pizza talk the conversation went to other good places to eat and I was recommended the Syrian-Lebanese place. It’s new as well, which I didn’t realise, because it looks a lot like the Kebab place that was in there before. I have visited it since, admired the pretty tea glasses and got a plate of mezze to take away.

Pretty tea glasses at the Syrian Lebanese restaurant

Pretty tea glasses at the Syrian Lebanese restaurant

Tiny Falafel Donuts!

Tiny Falafel Donuts!

I rounded off my pretty awesome day by meeting some friends for beer in Paris. We met at a small bar close to what I call Chinatown. Gergö calls it the street with three Chinese restaurants. I’m not actually making it up, though, it’s mentioned in the Wikipedia article on Chinese communities as the “oldest but smallest Asian neighborhood in Paris”. And it’s not just restaurants, there were also estate agents, shops, and street vendors. I love discovering neighbourhoods like this.

L'Atelier des Curiosités

L’Atelier des Curiosités

20160429_185639

Atelier des Curiosités has batman masks ans sculptures and everything you couldn’t possibly need.

20160429_185556(1)

Really old timber frame construction

Beer is really expensive in Paris. It’s common to pay 6 € for a pinte, so when the waiter brought the beer and asked for 3,30 € I made him repeat it twice, because I just couldn’t believe it. And it’s not a happy hour thing, it always costs 3,30. Needless to say the place was packed by 8.