August 10, 2011

Budapest

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Back in July, Mark, Lynh and I spent a week exploring Budapest. As you may or may not know, Budapest is divided by the Danube into Buda and Pest. We stayed in Pest (say: Pesht), which was livelier but not as pretty as Buda. In general, my impression of Budapest was that it was colorful, architecturally eclectic, and quite beautiful. I especially liked the Jewish quarter, Buda, and Margaret Island.

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We thoroughly explored Buda and Pest, spent an afternoon at the Szechenyi thermal baths, and walked along the Danube. My sister the sadist (kidding! or am I?) forced me to hike to the top of Gellert Hill on the hottest day, where we shared a bottle of mineral water in the shadow of a creepy sculpture and checked out the great view of the city.

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We also explored the city by night.

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As for food, we cooked most of our meals in our apartment, doing our best to find/follow authentic Magyar recipes. And because we had access to authentic ingredients (they sell goose fat at the grocery store like it ain't no thing), the food turned out pretty great. We sampled all of the local specialities we could find -- sour cherries, mangalitsa cured pork sausages, super fragrant paprika, at least 5 different types of pickled peppers (Lynh's theory is that Peter Piper was Hungarian) gulyas (meat braised with paprika and onion sauce), palacsinta (crepes), chicken paprikash, Tokaj sweet wine, etc.

The worst thing we ate was when Lynh ordered corn on the cob from a street vendor. I knew, just knew, it would be disgusto and I told her not to get it. And I was right. (I shared that seemingly pointless story because that episode led to Lynh eating it, making a face, me saying I told you so, and her yelling at me to stop being so annoying. Mark and I laughed a lot.)

We also sampled Israeli food (incredible laffa bread and good hummus, at Hummus Bar) and Serbian food (cevapcici, below, also tasty but with mediocre bread, at Castro Bisztro).
 
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As for accommodations, we rented this apartment. It would have been great except that the owner's agent kept bringing people by, with the explanation that the apartment was going to be in a movie (like I care). After I complained, they gave us a bottle of wine, which was nice I guess? But obviously I would have rather they respected our privacy in the first place. Vacation rentals! Not always perfect, but maybe you just have to keep your expectations appropriately low.

August 9, 2011

Scotland pt. 3: Isle of Skye and the Highlands

Skye is absolutely stunning, braved the horizontal rain to take a hike.

I had been dying to visit the Isle of Skye for years. It was exactly how I imagined it: stark, craggy, romantic, dramatic clouds, beautiful gray light.

Skye, Scotland

After a beautiful hike at the base of the Cuillins, we were soaked to the bone and it finally dawned on me why people there are always drinking tea. However, we had other beverages in mind that morning -- Talisker whisky, at the distillery just down the road from our hotel. I like Talisker, but I also loved tasting the local spring water, which flows over peat and tastes extra interesting.

After a tour and a wee dram, we drove almost all the way around Skye. It was freezing, but we braved the cold windy sleet and all the sheep poo (just trying to give you the full experience!) to do some short hikes along the way. 

Mark straight up started running when we got to the Quiraing ridge (maybe he was tired of being in the car?):
Mark, Skye, Scotland
Skye,  Scotland

Mark, Skye, Scotland

After a few days exploring Skye, we made our way through the Highlands for more glens, more stunning vistas, more gleaming lochs, more waterfalls, and the most awesome hike ever. You start out in a sparkling, very green forest, with waterfalls all over the place -- and then you end up in a pristinely beautiful glen. No big deal!

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And I finally got up close and personal with a Highland cow. Get that hair out of your eyes, young lady.
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Then, while driving past Glencoe, we saw a lone piper who was (we believe) playing playing Bryan Adams' "(Everything I do) I do it for you." Please try to imagine how stirring this was.



Scotland, I like you. 

August 8, 2011

Back!

It was a fantastic summer -- we'll never forget it -- but man, it feels so nice to be home. We spent the last few days unpacking (a big job, since we packed away most of the stuff in the house before our sub-letters moved in), going through a mountain of mail, and getting back to our normal routine. We also made time for lazing in the Northern California sunshine, Harry Potter, and planting the garden for fall.

Some photos from the last few weeks in Paris
I.M. Pei's famous pyramid at night:

Picking figs at Albert and Thierry's country house:

Slicing figs for clafoutis:

Sunday lunch in my fantasy garden:


Lynh, napping by the pool:

Lovely pears:

Water lilies at l'Orangerie:

insanely delicious duck fat fried chicken we made to use up our store of duck fat (you can take the Jones girls out of Alabama ...):

Buttes Chaumont:
Buttes Chaumont
Buttes Chaumont
Pear shaped, pear filled pastry:
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Rock climbing in Fontainebleau:
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Notre Dame (duh):