There we were in our hotel room in Prague—much more sophisticated and glamorous than the sort we’d have booked for ourselves, to be sure, thanks to the tour organizers—and I looked up and saw this through the curtains on our window:
You know, naturally, that since we were in Prague, any promise of romance and adventure was bound to be fulfilled and, indeed, surpassed. A holiday of any sort is not to be shunned, generally speaking. But when I find myself in a city so marvelously compounded of history, mystery, drama and delight as Prague, I feel from the first glimpse of its thousand towers that frisson, that lovely shiver, presaging wonderful things not yet imagined even by me in my most vivid dreams.
Another pleasure of travel—of getting out of my familiar paths and habits—is discovering not only new things to eat but new ways of preparing and presenting foods I might have known all along. Whether there’s some entirely unforeseen ingredient or the known ones are combined in a completely unfamiliar way or plated more exotically or beautifully than I’ve seen before, it’s all, well, food for thought. And a danged fine way to assuage the hunger pangs brought on by wandering and exploring in new territory.
The time we spent in Europe in July was yet another happy example of this truism. So much so that I’ll just give you a few tantalizing shots for your contemplation and not go further. You’ll be wanting to dash off for lunch before I have any time to go on further anyhow, don’t you know.
Our recent trip in Hungary, Austria and the Czech Republic served as a fine reminder that Europeans have some special talents when it comes to taking advantage of the fun factor of making and enjoying desserts. A cafe many of us from the choir tour group found on our stop just before crossing the Hungarian-Austrian border had a menu loaded not only with bright, shiny pictures but dessert items guaranteed to put any dedicated diner into a happy but instantaneous snacking coma.
All of this enticement aside—and I did, however reluctantly, lay it all aside despite the strong temptations, having already eaten a pretty substantial and dairy-laden traditional European meal of ‘fried cheese’ (crisply crumb-coated slow-melt cheese served with a sweet tartar dipping sauce)—there are other dessert paths to my heart, even in the heart of dessert-magical Europe. So I waited a moderate amount of time for my digestion, stroll aided, to recover from lunch before I opted for a much smaller and less elaborate dessert. elsewhere. It was only a single scoop of Stracciatella gelato, but it was cold, creamy, rich and delectable all the same. I’m not made of stone, you know.
Yes, I have received another award. This one’s from me, to mark the official recognition of my silliness in not quite getting it right when I got the last one.
My last award was a generously conferred Versatile Blogger nod from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Ms. Cecilia the Sage and Savvy Farmer. Yesterday I was tagged with a second such recognition by the delightful and gifted Nia, a photographer and diarist from Istanbul. And when she sent me the notification, I had to slap my forehead with dumbstruck awe at how remiss and inattentive I’d been when I was tagged the first time. So, with my apologies, I tip my new self-anointed crown in an apologetic genuflection and promise both to re-post and to remember to inform (as is customary, if you’ll note in the rubrics down below) the people to whom I had hoped to show my admiration in the first place. Oops! My oversight is in no way meant to be reflective of my great enjoyment of the bloggers listed here, and I hope all of you reading this will click on the links, check out their blog sites, and share in their wealth of knowledge and artfulness and entertaining and thoughtful world-views too.
We ask anyone receiving the Versatile Blogger Award to
pay it forward, if you will.
- Thank the person who gave
you the award and link back to them in your post.
- Tell your readers seven (7)
things about yourself.
- Give this award to fifteen
(15) recently discovered bloggers.
- Contact those bloggers and
let them in on the exciting news!
As for things to tell you about myself, I’ve already mentioned my dyslexia and wildly meandering forms of thought, and here I am just proving the point again. No news there! So I’ll go off on a little different tangent, with a list of a few of the interesting places I’ve visited.
1 The Grove of the Patriarchs (Washington State). An isolated little island surrounded by streams in Mt Rainier National Park, because of its sheltered position there the islet is still populated by spectacular old-growth trees, mainly Douglas firs and cedars, that are awe-inspiring and make you feel you’ve stepped into another dimension, an incredibly peaceful one.
2 Saint Lucia. Another island, but of an utterly different kind, being in the southern Caribbean. My mother and father in law took the family on a cruise with them for their 50th anniversary (apparently missed the memo where people are supposed to give YOU big presents for big events). While ‘cruise culture’ isn’t necessarily a logical fit for my personality, it was tremendous fun to spend the time getting to know the family better, seeing a part of the world I’d never seen before, and especially, going off with the parents, my spouse, and the elder nephews and scarpering off the ship across a lonesome stretch of high road to the local aquarium, where they had the most impressive tarpon I’ve ever seen sailing around in the tanks.
3 Prague (Czech Republic). By default, really, the first time. Our honeymoon was planned to time perfectly with a previously scheduled conducting gig my husband had gotten in Hungary, so we thought we’d fly to Budapest right after the wedding since we were to be picked up there by the festival arrangers. But it was one of the big years for European travel–so much so that there were no tickets to be had anytime close to when we had to be there. So we flew into Prague, fell wildly in love with its superb Gothic-to-Art Nouveau architectural beauties, and were sorry when we did have to leave on the train to Budapest.
4 Tijuana (Mexico). It’s not really what I’d call having been to Mexico! I’m sure it’s quite different now, but if you visited there, say, in the seedy seventies, you know exactly what I mean. But what a colorful experience in a sort of eccentric country-of-its-own. Unforgettable.
5 Winnipeg (Manitoba). I’ve been on the Canadian plains before–not least of all, spending joyful years going to our home-away-from-home in Edmonton, Alberta. But going to Winnipeg in cold, wintry weather was a special kind of revelation. Wonderful historic buildings rising seemingly spontaneously from this incredibly flat expanse allowed me to see distances that seemed almost godlike in the chill and windy silence of the season. Indoors, warmth galore: great events, great food, and most of all, great people. But outside, something uniquely apart that appealed to my soul greatly too.
6 Grim (Kristiansand, Norway). The neighborhood near my sister’s home in Kristiansand is not a tourist destination or remarkable for its unique character, per se, and let’s face it, the name doesn’t read with promise in English! But as it’s the ‘home’ neighborhood for us when we’re there, it has the unbreakable draw of bloodlines coursing through its streets and walkways. And all roads then lead to family. Quite the opposite of feeling grim, indeed, to me.
7 Molokai (Hawaii). After a rough year at work, my father’s friends and supporters gave our family plane tickets to Hawaii, a family to greet us on Oahu and host the start of our visit, and a week’s stay in their condominium on Molokai. When we flew into the dirt-paved airport on Molokai and saw the big scrawl on the tin roof of the “terminal” (using the term advisedly here) shouting “THE FRIENDLY ISLAND” at us in welcome, we almost fell out of the plane laughing. The 6-mile-long island looked so dusty and forlorn and godforsaken that we couldn’t imagine anything would be engaging there. But the condo was peaceful and proved a perfect place for personal restoration after the year’s exhaustion, not to mention for the family to simply regroup a little. And better than that, the locals embraced us as though we were long-lost relatives, feeding and leading us with incredible generosity and kindness that can never be forgotten.
8 Kersey, Suffolk (England). Our late friend Ruth was a world traveler, gourmet cook, lifelong teacher, and one of the kindest souls to grace the planet. She took my sister and me in over American Thanksgiving when we visited her charming home Blue Gate in the English countryside. She fed us glorious meals, showed us the Wool Churches and thoroughbred stables nearby, and took us into the sweet town of Kersey, where she introduced us to a marvelous lady I still suspect of having been a fairy or elf of some sort. With the most perfectly gossamer sterling hair and blue eyes brighter than the North Star, she ruled a tiny woollens shop right beside the most significant natural feature in the village, the main street ford of the stream. Which was no more and no less than a slight depression in the road, and would fill with water at any and every drop of rain or dew, and it was accepted as the Only Thing to Do that when the water came in, the ducks followed, and when the ducks were in the so-called Ducksplash, anyone in an automobile had better just settle in for a wait until the bathing was done rather than risk the ire of the villagers by forcing the ducks out of the little ford to let him pass. The shopkeeper knew full well what a marvel this village was, surviving intact and quietly into the noisy modern age, and told us of a young man who’d visited in the past and was unable to conceive of this sleepy town’s merits. He asked her what on earth it was that had moved so many people to urge him to spend time in Kersey. “You don’t know yet, then?” asked the twinkling lady. He shrugged. She smiled more widely than the Cheshire Cat and said softly, “Well, then, you’ll die wondering, won’t you.”
9 Balatonfüred (Hungary). A resort town on lovely Lake Balaton, situated in wine country and popular as a seaside getaway for many generations, my husband and I and a pair of close friends visited it on the advice of colleagues while we were at that honeymoon music festival I mentioned before in a nearby town. While the town itself is quite charming and pretty and full of interesting people and inviting walks along the water, the driver we hired, who tore up the countryside with us crammed in his little car while he narrated at top speed in delighted broken English, was really the highlight of the trip. His evident pleasure in the outing, in racing his little automobile as though on fire, and in showing us a favorite town were wonderfully contagious.
10 Fort Worth (Texas). Now that I live in a nearby town myself, I have been to this haven of cowboy culture and enjoyed a taste of the present-day version of Old Tejas. There’s something immensely appealing about being in a city big enough for the requisite skyscrapers and big business but still housing pens full of beautiful longhorn cattle within the city limits. Ft Worth has much more resource in the way of arts and culture that I’ve yet to explore, but it’s nice to know that the old west is still alive and well here thousands of miles from where it finally hit the actual west coast of the continent.