A ‘Mini-Trip to Spain’ on London’s South Bank

Bank Holidays in the UK usually mean one thing: rain. But this May Day dawned bright and sunny, with temperatures high enough to make me put on my first summer outfit of the year. Flaunting bare feet in sandals, toenails newly painted, I wandered along to London’s South Bank. It is an area rammed with tourists, eager for that holiday snapshot of Big Ben, the Thames and the London Eye – and of course, with practically the first hot day of the year, the crowds were out in force. Call me crazy, but I love the busy, thronging atmosphere; admittedly in small doses. It is not just for tourists, however; the South Bank is also home to the wonderful Southbank Centre, one of my favourite places in the whole of London, because there is always something interesting and a little bit different going on. You can just wander in and see what is going on in the main hall – sometimes a yoga session, sometimes a lecture, sometimes an exhibition – then grab a drink at the cafe and sit outside, watching the hubbub of activity below. With simple, open areas inside and free WiFi, it’s also the perfect place for a rainy day to sit and write, surrounded as you are by so much creative energy. Since it was May Day – traditional fete day in the UK – there was a little more than usual going on. The first surprise was the sheep, hardly an ordinary sight in the middle of London. The second surprise was that they were dancing sheep. I passed an odd but very...

The Best Restaurant in Budapest

It may be a bold statement, but on a recent trip to Hungary’s capital, I think I found the best restaurant in Budapest. The Bock Bistro on Erzsébet körút is not ridiculously fancy or expensive, but everything about it is perfectly charming. I was surprised by the gastronomy of Budapest. It was naive, but I imagined it was all goulash and dumplings – the traditional image of Eastern European fare. Goulash was on a few menus, but there is so much more to Hungary’s cuisine. Plums and sour cherries feature in both savoury and sweet dishes, whilst delicate nut mousses are a speciality dessert. My friend Zita of ziziadventures, had been kind enough to provide a list of recommendations for places to eat, and the Bock Bistro was on there. It was very close to our hotel, and therefore a convenient choice. Having set out at peak dining time, we arrived to find the small restaurant full and we hadn’t made a reservation. The waiter, however, said that we could come back in 20 minutes and he would have a table ready. I think we were lucky – booking is recommended for this place. We retired to the bar next door and ordered unicum cocktails – my first taste of this Hungarian aperitif – and returned after the allotted time to find a table ready and waiting for us. The waiter spoke flawless English, making me feel bad about my complete lack of Hungarian. Indeed, when I tried out my few words of the language on him, he simply looked at me quizzically. Soon a witty repartee was bouncing...

The Delight of Borough Market

Ever since Jamie Oliver, or some TV chef, announced that they got their produce from Borough Market, it has become ‘trendy’ – compelete with flocks of tourists and a few pristine-looking stalls with the haughty signs: ‘only customers allowed to take photos’. However, these small changes  are not yet threatening to take the market away from its roots – delivery trucks still honk and shudder their way through the street cutting down the middle of the market, trains still rumble and shake overhead. And most of the stalls, in the old stone buildings, are not too polished, still just offering high quality produce from fruit and veg to artisan meringues. And as a place to travel the world in food, it is unparalleled.   Cheery red and yellow umbrellas cast a warm glow over the global produce – from parma ham to empanadas, the outdoor area is a treat for the senses. Traders stand behind their stalls, flipping through a newspaper, chatting to a neighbour or, occasionally, advertising their product. It is a relaxed, casual atmosphere, set against a background of international chatter from shoppers and traders alike. I just love London’s Victorian architecture and it’s pleasing to know that, despite the odd touch of ‘trendy’, most of Borough Market is holding true to its roots. There is nothing ‘converted’ or ‘refurbished’ about these warehouses, they are old and functional, simply a space in which to set up shop. In fact, the market here has a history far older than the Victorian era: a market has been held in this area since the Early Middle Ages. This gives it...

Photo Friday: Fruits Glacés

Throughout April, we are celebrating food with everything from the weird to the wonderful from around the world. For this Photo Friday, we’re at the wonderful end of the scale… At its best, food is simply divine – and the glace fruits in this French artisan shop must have fallen from the laps of the gods themselves, so tempting and sweet were they. No visit to France can pass without encountering wondrous food presented in a most beautiful manner and this was a typically eye-catching display in the town of Sarlat, in the Dordogne region. Vive la France, Vive la gastronomie!...

Cuy: Peru’s Celebration Food

It’s the second Wednesday of April, which means it is time once again to join the Travel Belles Across the Cafe Table! This month, we’re discussing the weirdest food we’ve eaten on our travels. I can’t wait to read about what other intrepid foodies have dared to eat!   To put this into context, I am normally a vegetarian. However, when I arrived at the Delgados’ home in the small, Andean town of Huaraz, Peru, I decided to forgo my principles. Vegetarianism is not exactly a familiar concept in these parts and the family were so generous in sharing their homecooked meals with us volunteers that I just couldn’t refuse. In general, the meals were delicious casseroles or stews served with rice or potatoe, without too much meat. In the garden, four guinea-pigs lived happily in a roomy hutch. They were well-fed, petted often by the youngest child and seemed for all the world like family pets. However, one day, I got home from the school where I was teaching and went into the kitchen to make myself a drink. There, on the counter, was a metal bowl, in which two headless, skinned, guinea-pig carcasses were marinating. I knew that guinea-pig – cuy –  was a delicacy here, having seen it advertised on numerous menus, but to see them like this was a bit of a shock. A horrible thought struck me and I went out to the garden. Sure enough, two of the guinea pigs were gone. It was the son’s 11th birthday and that night we sat down to the special, celebratory meal of cuy. It was well cooked...
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