Budapest ...!

I loved Budapest!

Julie had found us an Air B&B apartment located directly behind the opera house and just off Andrássy Avenue.   There's a photograph of the exquisite interior courtyard at the end of this post.  We were two floors up, 6 flights of stairs but honestly ... worth it.

Things I loved about Budapest: the ruin pubs, most especially Szimpla.  Jennifer took us to both Szimpla and Instant ruin pubs and honestly, loved them.

Coffee.  Again we were wandering in a city with excellent coffee.  Favourite cafe was The Párizsi Nagyáruház.  As with so many of the delightful finds made in Budapest, Jennifer was responsible as we went there after I did a small portrait session with her.  Then I took Julie back while we discussed whether she should replace her dead Apple laptop with an iPad.  She did.  (A couple of days later and I can report that she is supremely happy with her iPad.)

Komédiás Kávéház was a delightful find - again, introduced to us by Jennifer.  Fodor's pretty much have it covered when they write, Also called Café le Comédien, this ravishingly elegant little café in the heart of the main theater district, next door to the Thália Theater and near the Opera House, has live piano music daily from 7 PM and has an impressive cherry-wood-like staircase leading up to its small second-floor room.

On the second night, Jennifer found yet another treasure and there I ate a Hungarian dish called Sztrapacska, a dish that will go on my top 5 dinners in the world so far.   She has superb taste in wines too and so it was that we had another delightful Hungarian red wine with our food.  It may be that she will cross-post a Hungarian wine post for me here.  We really enjoyed all that we tasted.

And the food has all been very affordable. 

Budapest impressed me for so many reasons. Andrássy Avenue became familar very quickly, the Opera House too.  We ended up using a hop on/hop off bus, attempting to cover as much of the city as possible during our two nights there.  We crossed the Danube on the bus and it took us up into the hills of Pest ... or was it Buda?  Buda I think.

Up there we met Iain, a fellow kiwi who wandered over and asked us if we were kiwis.  It was lovely to meet someone from home.  The accent still gives me the most delightful jolt when I hear it unexpectedly.  We chatted a while, up there on the hill and then later, said hi when we met up with him and his Spanish traveling companions in the ruin pub.

And once all this traveling is done, I hope to hunt down books on the history of the city, and the characters who helped create it, most particularly Matthias Corvinus, 1443-1490.  He seems like he might have been a fascinating man.  As a Renaissance ruler, he established education institutions, patronized art and science, and introduced a new legal system in the Kingdom of Hungary. In the era of his kingship, Matthias strongly endeavored to follow the model and ideas of the philosopher-king as described in Plato’s Republic.

There were sad stories too but they're for another post perhaps.

I would like to return and explore some more of this country called Hungary. I was intrigued, fascinated and impressed by the people, the cuisine, the city of Budapest.

Road-Tripping ...Things I'm Learning

The best random car radio I've heard anywhere in the world so far was between Rijeka, Croatia and Budapest, Hungary.  I guess it's music I know so perhaps there was some nostalgia from the 70s and 80s involved but honestly, excellent music for that 4+ hour journey.

If you have a rental car that doesn't charge your GPS as you travel, chances are you might have some challenging experiences when attempting to reach your destination

First hint of trouble was in Verona.  Many people were approached for directions to our final destination in the heart of the ancient city.  Rijeka, and voila, although we tried to leave the GPS alone and simply rely on it for the complicated city-leaving and arrival parts ... the GPS battery started to die about one kilometre from our destination.

About then we became suspicious of the coincidence of the destination flag appearing and the battery warning appearing.  Maybe it had some kind of bug in the machine. 

Budapest ... about a kilometre from our destination, having really rested the GPS, up came the battery warning along with the destination flag. We were caught in a long traffic jam on the other side of the river.  Julie laughed.  I was not amused.

We crossed over into Austria yesterday and barely used the GPS.  No flag appeared as we neared our Vienna destination ... the 'bug' in the GPS suspicion is over.  The rental car has a faulty charger.  We shall proceed with caution, relying mostly on the big highway signs.  It's Trieste today and a longer journey that will take us through Slovenia.

But back to other things learned ... be clear on destinations programmed into the GPS. We had hoped to call in for lunch in Zagreb but managed to miscommunicate on programming that idea in.  We passed by and realised, after a conversation, that we love the journey as much as the destinations so we continued on.  4+ hours of road-tripping was a really excellent Plan B, although we did detour to a secondary road and visit a lake before leaving Hungary.

Budapest, brilliant city.  Loved it but more to follow in another post. 

Julie's handbag.  The one that sits behind us on the floor of the backseat.  Yes Julie, it is a marvellous bag that holds so much but ... let's be sure that I pull out your sunglasses, your normal glasses, your lip balm, your iPod music player (although that's more useful if charged), and every other thing I have had to grapple with on the road trip while you have driven us across Europe.

But okay, yes, perhaps it would have lacked a certain sense of achievement had we been that organised.

Air B&B, a great way to travel. We've stayed in local homes and apartments, met excellent people that I have to write more about when I have all the information and life isn't about the journey.  I'm writing this from a student flat in Vienna, where one of our hosts is a lovely Croatian guy studying architecture.  He was just in Rijeka last week.  They are a delightful couple and we're glad that we did it.  Julie organised it all and she has made me a convert because I do love meeting people where ever I go.   

It's another big old apartment complex with at least two inner courtyards.  The Budapest apartment was my favourite so far ... directly behind the opera house and truly exquisite, inner courtyard, beautiful ironwork on the inside and that delicious sense that you are experiencing something of an everyday life in each place.

Learned while living in Istanbul ... always look for cafes and restaurants that are full of locals. Do not be tempted to do anything else.  If you know someone, all the better, ask them where to eat.  We have eaten divinely while traveling.   It's been less about expensive and upmarket and so very much about good local food.  Hungary has been my absolute favourite so far. 

If in doubt about where to eat, stop someone who looks like they might eat in places you would like to eat in.  Asking politely worked every time.

Wines ... some countries you can barely go wrong, other countries have a wine culture to be explored with caution.  Perhaps that's as specific as I'll get but I do love countries where I can find my beloved Italian red wines. We enjoyed this Croatian red wine.   And were really impressed by Hungarian red wine ... absolutely lovely.  Thanks to Jennifer.

Men from Manchester on stag weekends in Budapest ... very friendly, quite naughty but with a lovely humour that meant we always wandered away on laughing.  We met 3 groups on our second night there.  Yes, they made us laugh.

Croatians in Rijeka speak beautiful English.  We were told by the lovely wine guy that they start studying it in fourth grade.  Hungarians in Budapest also speak beautiful English. 

Maybe that's enough for this post.  I wanted to finish up with a photograph of the most divine fish and chips I've had any place so far ...located on Andrássy Avenue, we would absolutely recommend The Bigfish restaurant because their cod and chips were sublime.

In Ancient Times ...

'It is also famous as one of the few ancient cities that can now be seen in almost its original splendour, because unlike Pompeii, its burial was deep enough to ensure the upper storeys of buildings remained intact, and the hotter ash preserved wooden household objects such as beds and doors and even food.

Moreover Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii with an extraordinary density of fine houses, and far more lavish use of coloured marble cladding. The discovery in recent years of some 300 skeletons along the sea shore came as a surprise since it was known that the town itself had been largely evacuated.

Source: Wikipedia.

I found myself fascinated by the ruins of Herculaneum.  Destroyed during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius back in 79 A.D, there is still so much that is as it was then.  I was only there for a few hours but it remains as a memory of immensity ... both in time and space. 


One Day Out Wandering ...

I have a photography exhibition happening in Brussels in the autumn, more information to follow but today ... talking with Marcia, I suddenly knew what my theme would be.  And I spent the rest of the day going through the hundreds of photo folders I have images stored in ... hundreds and hundreds.

Hundreds to the point where there are photographs I took and never really got back to.  In the summer months I have been known to journey from Berlin to Istanbul to Italy.  Along the way, processing becomes impossible and special moments build up and overlap, some are lost.

Today has been a day of delightful finds.  I had forgotten the time I had spent wandering with Julie.  Those photographs, of time spent tearing all over a small corner of England, have been so much fun to go through.

There was this image, taken at Bath ... sunrise or sunset, I don't recall but it was, I remember, absolutely sublime out there in that light.

The Creatures on Cattedrale Di San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo's Cathedral was built to hold Saint John the Baptist's ashes ... ashes that arrived in Genova after the crusade in 1098. 

The lions that guard the entrance have been a point of fascination for me.  Today, searching for the cloister of yesterday (wrong church), I discovered the animals around the corner behind my favourite lion.

I love the way they seem to be attempting to peer round the corner ...

The Cottage, Bourgogne

Here I am, sitting at the table you see in the photograph below.   The air is soft and warm already, so early in the morning, the sky blue, and we're preparing to wander out into another day.

Writing ... the internet ... they are forms of meditation for me.   Out here in Bourgogne, I am loving the sensations of this outdoor writing and reading life.

Everyday we spend long hours wandering, exploring so there's a balance I love.  Today we're back in Beaune, tidying things up as we prepare to move closer to my beloved mountains tomorrow.  I shall finally visit Mont Blanc, a mountain I read of so often in the climbing literature devoured over the years.  And that is what makes leaving this little oasis of peace and beauty bearable.

A glimpse of here ...

Cluny Abbey, France

In 910, William the Pious, Duke of Aquitaine, founded an abbey under the patronage of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, accountable directly to the Pope. The abbey grew considerably until the 12th century thanks to abbots like Odilo and Hugh of Semur, who were later canonised. 

Cluny was the mother house for over 1,000 monasteries and became the headquarters of the largest monastic order in the West: the Cluniac order.

And that is where we wandered today. 

Bourgogne is confusing me. There is so much here.  You drive 6kms and you feel you have arrived in another country ... sometimes, another time.  And we have driven so many kilometres, slowly, wandering through time and space in ways I'm not sure I've traveled before.

Cluny Abbey was a Benedictine Monastery that played a hugely influential role throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.  It had the highest arches in the Roman world and was the biggest church in Christianity. 

Sadly French revolutionaries destroyed this incredible site in 1790.  Still, it was a pleasure to wander there, learning of its history, enjoying what had survived and/or been restored.

I turned a corner searching for the 3D film room they promised us and found the corridor below there in front of me.  This is simply a snapshot but I love that it captured something of the beauty that is still the Cluny Abbey.

A small space next to a window out in the country...

There is not much better, I believe, than waking up out in the country. 

Wandering down the exquisitely substantial staircase this morning, unpacking my Nespresso machine once in the kitchen (well, yes I did bring it), and the bread, butter and peach jam, I realised I had really done it. I had moved to the country ... just for a few days.

The family surged in and around and out and then were gone ... in their car packed full of people and laughter, heading for France.  I waved them goodbye, with the Wwoofers - a lovely Australian and American couple - and the veryvery sad dog. 

The roof guys arrived ... Eastern Europeans I've been told.  And I wandered back up those stairs to create some desk space for me and my boxloads of research and work.

Here is my space.  I look down on a small forest from my first floor window.  The set-up is not ergonomic in any way, shape or form ... in fact, I suspect it runs more along the lines of one of the top 10 ways to deliberately destroy yourself.  I'll work on it over the next few days.

Meanwhile, 29 celsius is expected today.  The sky is a deep blue, as I sit here at the window.  The garden is full of courgettes, tomatoes and all kinds of other delights waiting for dinner tonight.  The hens are rumoured to be laying well.  I may have packed some of my favourite Spanish red wine ...

Now, to work.

A Still Life ...

We realised, counting back, that it has been 7 weekends since we had no plans, nothing scheduled, no one staying over ...

This weekend it's just Gert and I, and here we are, quietly working away at projects that need completed as soon as possible, eating what we feel like when we feel like it, and enjoying the simplicity of this sunny Saturday in Belgium.

I finally had time to write over on the Beautiful Liguria blog, time to work through those May photographs taken in Genova, time to update my blog, time to wash winter blankets ... you know? All that stuff we lose in the rush of everyday life ... lose to poor planning, and into that hole recently described as The 'Busy' Trap.

Last week I took some time to work through all of my notes, research and general paperwork, then carried on, sorting through my files of everything else too.  I rediscovered my desk top.  I made time to work out how to use the drawers on this now old 'new' desk.

Gert finished creating our new photography e-course.  I worked with Anna on the itinerary for the photography workshops in Genova.  A parcel of 'stuff' has headed for Germany where Miss 8 now lives with Ms 25 and the Prince of Nintendo (as we may have taken to calling Ollie.  Miss 8 and I.) 

There have been skype sessions where I have read Harry Potter  and the Goblet of Fire to her, and skype sessions where she writes to me in English - my little Dutch-speaking, about to learn German, Kiwi-born buddy.

There have been birthdays to remember, new apartments to view with friends who are moving, and a couple of long photography sessions at a yoga studio.  The last being so interesting because, until now, the closest I came to that kind of photography where the subjects didn't complain was the photography of sculpture.

And so, in finally exploring my folders of photographs from Genova, I found this still life ...

Just a note really ...

Life goes on, here in Genova.  It's 20 celsius, as I write this, and I can hear the beautiful hum that this city makes, as people end their day of working and meet for aperitivo.

I've been working at the kitchen table that looks out over the street here, window open ... washing drying in the beautiful weather.  I can hear the Swallows playing their kamikaze-like games out in the skies.  They squeal as they chase each other up and down streets.

I found a wonderful art gallery today. We couldn't talk because we lacked language but I loved the work I saw there.  It's not the photograph, which is beautiful anyway, but what the artist does with the photograph afterwards.

The lion you see on the home page inspired me to visit with the lions of San Lorenzo as I passed by them today but I just discovered my TIM connection is too slow here, in Genova ... I  can't load my image.  Perhaps I'll stop by at the internet cafe tomorrow anyway ... ciao from Genova.

Fertal Lahcen, artist

Imagine, always traveling, meeting people ... hearing their stories. 

Alex and Mina have their blog, ...sending postcards. Who could resist reading them: 'During the autumn of 2009, we sold our house, quit our jobs, and were married in the sun. We left our life-long home on the prairies of Canada to run away together and see the world. This travelogue was created to document our extended honeymoon - the often mundane, seldom peculiar, and sometimes extraordinary details.'

I found this artist over on their website.  Turn the volume up when you watch Fertal describing the materials he uses to create his artworks.

A Saturday in March ...

Yesterday was  a day of reorganising the space that we have here in the 3-storey tall narrow house.  Gert and I ended up working right through the day, simply because I had decided to create a space of no distractions ... a place to finish this book I've begun.

I have two novel manuscripts started too, and another of interviews with New Zealand climbers.  That one went through two very positive publishing meetings before being rejected.  Back then, the public wasn't so interested in the crazy beautiful lives of climbers and mountaineers.  Other publishers were suggested, those who might take the risk of low sales, but then my mum began dying, I had finally started university, and somehow the manuscript has become another thing that I carry.

There are poems too. A new one that came on the train that took me across Belgium a few days ago.  A  poem that I like, and I am my toughest critic.

But anyway, photography took over as my dedicated form of expression.  You can slip everything into an image.  Sometimes it's like a poem, other times it's a novel and tells a story but mostly there is the pleasure is not being sure of what you have captured until you are done.

So I have a writing space now.  A  huge IKEA table that serves as a desk, and enough shells and stones to break my current desk collection in two while maintaining a beautiful pile of beach treasure on both desks.  Facebook, phones and non- related books are all banned from the new space.

However, in moving my writing stuff, in taking my favourite images up there, in moving all of my books on Genova... I created what seemed like a huge space down here in the 'everyday' office place.  But even that was fun, moving that bookcase there, those images here, that scarf-hanger too. 

We had Paola and Simon over for dinner last night and they were curious to see these changes, the ones I had earlier mentioned being in the midst of over on facebook.  Well ... here in the everyday office space, I realised, when looking through their eyes, that these huge changes weren't really so obvious despite the fact that they had felt like a major upheaval.   My new writing space was approved of though.

So that's how we spent our Saturday.  Dinner was delightful ... aperitivo by Paola and Simon, an Italian rib and sausage casserole by Gert, followed by one of his delicious cherry Clafoutis.  Excellent conversations, good people ... a really excellent Saturday.

I'll leave you with one of those photographs that surprised me.  I saw this tap dripping in Istanbul, in one of the many ancient places there.  I photographed it, ignoring the hustle and bustle of people around me, in that city of 14 million people.  Today, I have it here next to me, in a 30x45cm format ... I have to rehang it later but just having it here, so close, made me really see it again.  I really love it but couldn't have imagined this capture at the time of taking because it was so beautiful and how do you capture beauty ...




Lovin Genova

I think this photograph says it all today ...  it’s a glorious day here in Genova.  Blue skies, not to cold, lots of lovely people.

But more on the people who operate behind the window in the photograph.  Lovin Genova provides people with all the information they could need when wandering in Genova. They have two offices, one down near the pirate ship parked in the harbour, close to the aquarium and another up on Via Garibaldi.  Their English publications are superb and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Ciao from La Superba

Stations of the Cross, Ireland

Today we wandered up to Mamean, here where we are, near Gallway, and Rob wrote of howthe 12 Bens of Connemara stood high and handsome behind us across the Inagh Valley, Bencorr in front, with Beanna Beola and Benbaun peeping over her shoulders. Ahead, the slopes of Binn Mhór and Binn Mhairg cradled the rising path, their quartzite rock glinting dully as cloud shadows brushed through, now gleaming dazzlingly as sunlight struck across.

After waxing poetic, with quite the mocking self in the ascendent, Rob continued with this ... Up at the pass stood a tiny chapel, an altar and the cave-like recess called St Patrick’s Bed. A statue of the saint brooded over the path, a sheep at his heels. Had the good shepherd Patrick once walked these slopes, blessed the holy well nearby and slept in the cave? Many down the centuries thought and felt that he had, and they forged a pilgrim path to the pass, with its breathtaking views over the Inagh and Maam valleys.

And here we have one of the stations cross. So beautiful it was up there.
I’m loving Ireland.