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Winter in Middle Europe (part 3)

Winter in Middle Europe (part 3)

24 December 2016

We woke up early on Christmas Eve, as we had a train to catch to Prague from Kraków. Actually, it was a combination of bus and train, as the first part of the trip, from Kraków to Ostrava (just after the Czech border) was by bus and the rest of the trip to Prague was by train. It was going to be a long day commuting…

I did some research before the time, and as it is, the main Christmas celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, as most Czech people stay at home (read most restaurants and shops are closed) and have a traditional Czech Christmas dinner with the family. Apparently, in the days leading up to Christmas, the markets sell live carp everywhere which will be taken home to cook up a storm for Christmas dinner.

I was happy to have stumbled across this little tidbit of information, and decided that when in Rome, do as the Romans, so we had a booking for a traditional Christmas dinner at a restaurant in Prague Nove Mesto (New Town).

We arrived at the Praha-Libeň railway station after 3:00pm in the afternoon and it was immediately clear that the city was empty. A lonesome man at a ticket counter grumpily pointed us in the direction of the automatů to purchase tickets for the tram. Luckily, the tram ride was a short one and we arrived at the Luxury Family Hotel Bílá Labuť soon after with a bit of time to kill before we had to leave for dinner.

Another tram ride brought us to the Nove Mesto, where we had a short walk to the medieval Restaurace u Českých pánů, where we had a booking for dinner. The restaurant is set in Gothic cellars, restored to offer the feel of medieval times, and we booked for a traditional Czech Christmas dinner. The ambiance was pleasant, with live music and an explanation of the food on offer, with little extras to assist in mimicking a traditional Czech Christmas dinner.

We were welcomed with a complimentary drink of Becherovka, a herbal liquer, or a glass of Prosecco. Starters were Old Czech mushroom Cuba, a sort of barley risotto and was very delicious, followed by a creamy fish soup (made from carp, of course). The main course was breaded veal cutlet (don’t let the ‘let’ in cutlet fool you, it was a monster portion…) with homemade potato salad. Apparently, potato salad is also a very traditional addition to the Christmas dinner. Dessert was an apple strudel with ice cream, followed by coffee or tea and Christmas cookies. All this in a medieval cellar setting with Christmas music played by traditional folk musicians.

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Apple coring, walnut, and delicious food

All and all, the food was good, and we dutifully followed the instructions for the Czech traditions, including coring an apple. If the inside of the apple is shaped as a star, it means that everyone will get together the next year in happiness and health. A four-pointed cross is a bad omen and means that someone at the table will fall ill or die within a year. In addition, we each had to crack a walnut by hand, and if it breaks clean, with the insides pretty much intact, it is meant to be a positive omen.

 

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I couldn’t resist a picture with one of the many knights in armour on display…

The only downside and disappointment was that the service was shoddy to say the least. After the starter drink the waiter never once came to ask if we wanted to order anything else… dishes were brought out in rapid succession, but not once did he stop and ask for further drinks orders. Our coffee was ordered from the manager who happened to clear a table next to us. We spent almost half an hour jokingly trying to get the waiters attention to get our bill, imagining there was an invisible wall around our table (with much amusement from fellow diners).

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Wenceslas Square

When we got outside, the girls joked about checking the newspaper for the year. I am thankful that we were all in good spirits and we didn’t let this poor service spoil our evening and actually good food. The set menu was CK850 pp (almost $35) which was not a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination, but luckily we saved on wine or prosecco, because…erm…we weren’t offered anything…

Before heading back to our hotel, we walked down to the Wenceslas Square, a traditional setting for demonstrations and surrounded by shops and the business district. It was more a very large boulevard than a square, but the lights were pretty and it was a nice round off to a pleasant evening.

25 December 2016

We woke up on Christmas morning ready to explore the city. After a great breakfast, we set off towards the Old Town or Staré Město where we were to meet our guide for another walking tour. There was light rain forecast and we were not sure what would be open on Christmas day, but that didn’t put us off.

Upon recommendation from my friend Ingrid, we joined the Prague Tip Trip with Jana for a walking tour. The tour started off with a quick overview of one of the most amazing clocks in the whole world, the Prague Astronomical Clock dating back to 1410, the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. Jana showed us how to read the months, the lunar phase and the approximate time. For an accurate time reading, there is a proper clock at the top of the tower…

The Prague Astronomical Tower

The Prague Astronomical Tower

We moved on to the old town square, which was starting to show signs of live as the Christmas market was starting up for the day. The huge Christmas tree on the square also features a small show of lights in the evenings (although we didn’t ever see this). We walked across the square to the statue of Jan Hus, a religious reformer who was burnt at the stake for his beliefs.

Large Christmas tree on the Old Town Square

Large Christmas tree on the Old Town Square

Following one of the exits from the square, we walked to the Tyn Courtyard, founded in the 12th century where merchants came to pay customs for their goods. The courtyard features the Granovsky Palace, a Renaissance palace with the walls decorated in sgraffitoes and wall paintings. Unfortunately many of the paintings are faded badly, and in need of restoration. We stopped briefly at St Jacob’s church or the Basilica of St James, where we were able to view the inside of the church through a one way window. Jana shared the story of the mummified arm which, according to legend, belongs to a thief who tried to steal from the bejeweled altar when the statue of the Virgin Mary came alive and grabbed his arm, where he was found in the morning. His arm had to be amputated to rescue him and the arm was put on display in the church as a grim warning. Moments later the grumpy priest slammed open the door of the church and Jana sneered at him. Clearly not a lot of love lost there!

The wall murals

The Renaissance paintings on the walls of the Granovsky Palace

We made our way past the Grevin Praha, or the Madame Tussaud’s of Prague, which was closed for the day, to the House of the Black Madonna, a Cubist building that houses the Cafe Orient, which according to Jana served delicious cakes and sandwiches. We did peek into the building to see the awesome staircase, which is apparently often missed.

The staircase of the Cubist

The staircase of the Cubist House of the Black Madonna

Next, we made our way to Municipal House, next to the impressive Powder Gate, one of the original 13 gates of Prague. The Municipal House is a civic building that houses the Smetana Hall, a concert venue, where classic music concerts are held daily. The residents of Prague claim to have first discovered a young Mozart after his opera The Marriage of Figaro was performed there with tremendous success. The next year, Mozart visited himself and apparently he “counted this day as one of the happiest of his life”. His opera Don Giovanni debuted in Prague later that year to very appreciative audiences. Apparently Mozart famously said “Meine Prager verstehen mich” (My Praguers understand me). Jana told us the story of Mozart with some scorn and highlighted the fact that the Viennese today does not know where Mozart is buried as he died very poor and was buried in a mass grave.

The Powder Gate

The Powder Gate

After this we moved to the other side of the Old Town square to the Jewish Quarter or Josefov and the impressive Spanish Synagogue, with the bizarre Franz Kafka statue next to it. The statue is inspired by the short story written by Kafka called “Popis Jednoho Zápasu” (Description of a Match). By now it was raining but we managed to get a peek at the Old New Synagogue, the Jewish Ceremonial Hall and the Maisel Synagogue. Jana also shared the story of the legend of the monster Golem, in the 16th century by the Rabbi Loew, to defend the ghetto from antisemitic attacks. The monster was created from clay from the banks of the Vltava river, and brought to life through Hebrew incantations. The rabbi deactivated the Golem every Friday night by removing the shem, but legend has it that one Friday he forgot, and some reason the Golem went on a rampage. The rabbi finally caught up with him and removed the shem and he fell to pieces. Legend has it that the body of the Golem was stored in the attic of the Old New Synagogue and still lies there today.

The Church of the Holy Ghost, Jewish Quarter

The Church of the Holy Ghost, Jewish Quarter

The statue of Kafka

The statue of Kafka

The Old New Synagogue, Jewish Quarter

The Old New Synagogue, Jewish Quarter

The Maisel Synagogue

The Maisel Synagogue

This concluded our walking tour and we were happy to make our way to a small little restaurant, Paneria, on Jana’s recommendation to warm up and dry out a bit.

After lunch we made our way to the Klementinum, a historical complex of buildings which once housed one of the largest Jesuit colleges in the world. And of course, it houses one of the most impressive libraries in the world, the Baroque library hall, which I was dying to see. We booked a tour and was not disappointed with the library (which we unfortunately was not allowed to photograph), but the building also contained an observatory with wonderful equipment. And finally, the view from the tower was definitely worth the claustrophobic climb to the top.

The chapel of Saint Clement at the Klementinum

The chapel of Saint Clement at the Klementinum

The Barogue library in the Klementinum...no pictures were allowed

The Barogue library in the Klementinum…no pictures were allowed

The staircase to the Observatory of the Klemintinum

The staircase to the Observatory of the Klemintinum

Some of the equipment in the Observatory

Some of the equipment in the Observatory

The view from the Klemintinum tower

The view from the Klemintinum tower

Beautiful Prague from the Klemintinum Observatory Tower

Beautiful Prague from the Klemintinum Observatory Tower

After the visit to the Klementinum, we started making our way back to the hotel as we had a boat cruise on the Vltava river planned for the evening.

View of the city on the walk back to our hotel

View of the city on the walk back to our hotel

I originally wanted to book the Jazz Boat, but by the time I came around to making a booking, the seats were all booked out. So we settled on another boat cruise with a buffet style dinner and live music, through Viator. The cruise was pleasant and the food was reasonable and in the end we had a fun evening. We made turns to brave the cold to go up to the deck for pictures as it was difficult to see anything from insude the boat.

On the dinner cruise with my gorgeous girls

On the dinner cruise with my gorgeous girls

View of Prague Castle from the river at night

View of Prague Castle from the river at night

After dinner, we went back to the hotel to recharge our batteries overnight!

26 December 2016

After a very busy Christmas day, I relented and we had a bit of a sleep in the next morning. We wanted to visit the Castle district and the Charles bridge on our last full day in Prague. We initially thought we would join Jana again on a visit to the Castle district in the afternoon, but I wanted to go and visit the castle itself, so we decided to do it on our own steam.

After a short tram ride, we made it to the other side of the river, and made it in time for the ceremonial changing of the guards at noon. The queues at the castle were horrific. I can only imagine how busy it must be in summer. We had to queue at every entrance and the crowds were crazy. In the end, it made the whole experience of the castle very tiring, but it was still worth it. There are various tickets giving you entrance to certain sections of the castle. We bought tickets that gave us access to St Vitus Cathedral, Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica and the Golden Lane with Daliborka Tower which was as much as i thought our tiresome feet could withstand.

St Vitus Catherdral, Prague castle

St Vitus Catherdral, Prague castle

St Vitus Cathedral was very impressive, once we managed to get inside (another half an hour queue). Construction on the Gothic Cathedral started in the 14th century, but construction was halted in 1419 because of the Hussite wars and remained uncompleted for centuries. Only in the late 19th century was construction resumed and repairs to the original section undertaken. The cathedral was completed in Neo-Gothic style and solemnly consecrated only in 1929.

The interior of St Vitus Cathedral

The interior of St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral gilded altar

St Vitus Cathedral gilded altar

St Wenceslas chapel is next to St Vitus chapel and is meant to be a cult center for St Vitus. The value of the decorations of St Wenceslas Chapel is incalculable. The lower parts of the walls are decorated with more than 1300 gems, made in Bohemia. The joints between them are covered with gold.

St. Wenceslas Chapel, Prague castle

St. Wenceslas Chapel, Prague castle

St George’s Basilica was originally meant to be a second church for Prague castle in the 10th century. The current Romanesque appearance of the church dates back to the time of the reconstruction carried out in the 12th century. The interior of the basilica is austere and monumental. There are tombs and skeletons visible, one of whom apparently belongs to Prince Vratislav, father of St. Wenceslas.

St George's Basilica

St George’s Basilica

The eerie crypt in St George's Cathedral

The eerie crypt in St George’s Cathedral

The origins of Old Royal Palace dates back to the 9th and 10th century. In the 12th century it was replaced with a stone castle, remains of which is still preserved. In the 14th century, the king and emperor Charles IV enlarged the Romanesque building and so a Gothic palace with a vaulted interior for state purposes and a band of arcades on its northern side came to be. After a period of 80 years where the castle was empty, the King Vladislav Jagiello commenced a large scale reconstruction, adding the magnificent Vladislav Hall.

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The Vladislav Hall, Old Prague Castle

Our last stop of the Prague Castle was the Golden Lane. The modest dwelling, in small scale architecture, were inhabited by defenders of the Castle, servants or for example goldsmiths and the Castle marksmen. The tiny houses were occupied until World War II, but already during the period of the First Republic, care was taken to ensure that the picturesque character of the Lane was not changed in the course of modifications. From 1916 to 1917 house No. 22 was inhabited by the writer Franz Kafka.

Anya assisting Bianca with tying her shoelaces

Anya assisting Bianca with tying her shoelaces

Golden Lane, Prague Castle

Golden Lane, Prague Castle

I found my size house! Golden Lane, Prague Castle

I found my size house! Golden Lane, Prague Castle

Views from the Prague Castle Hill

Views from the Prague Castle Hill

Steps leading down from Castle Hill

Steps leading down from Castle Hill

After the castle visit, we walked down towards the river, sharing a traditional trdelnik covered with chocolate. You can buy trdelnik everywhere in Prague and they resemble the Kürtőskalács or chimney cake we had in Budapest. The cake is rolled around a wooden stick and then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix. Decadent and delicious! Something I would love to try at home.

And... time for some Trdl

And… time for some Trdelnik

We strolled back over the magnificent Charles bridge as the sun was setting and despite my feet being so tired, that I could not stand still, I could not get enough of the bridge!

With the girls on Charles Brigde, Prague

With the girls on Charles Brigde, Prague

The girls on Charles bridge, Prague

The girls on Charles bridge, Prague

Views from the other side of Charles Bridge of the Castle district

Views from the other side of Charles Bridge of the Castle district

One final one from Charles Bridge, looking back towards the Castle

One final one from Charles Bridge, looking back towards the Castle

Afterwards, we took a short walk to Restaurace Sedm Konšelů, another one of Jana’s recommendations. where I had the tradiční českou svíčkovou, which is fillet of beef in cream sauce and cranberries, served with traditional bread dumplings. It was good, and I ate the cranberries like Jana directed, a little bit at a time with the sauce.

After this late lunch, early dinner, we returned to the hotel, as we had tickets for the ballet at the National Theatre that evening! Knowing how much Bianca loves the ballet, I thought it would be a real treat to go and see the Nutcracker in the National Theatre, which dates back to the 19th century. Unfortunately I didn’t realise that it was a modern day adaption of the Nutcracker and actually had very little resemblance to the original ballet, other than the music, but it was still a fun evening out! The theatre is magnificent and it was a real treat to see a show there.

The National Theatre, Prague

The National Theatre, Prague

27 December 2016

This was our last morning in Prague, and we decided to go and do some shopping. Bianca’s suitcase broke when we arrived in Prague, and we needed to get something else. We also wanted to get some souvenirs and gifts. After some shopping, including the cutest Bohemian glasses, we returned to the Old Town Square to view the hourly show of the Astronomical clock, which we have missed until then. It was extremely busy, with people shoving and pushing, but it was worth it. Afterwards, we did a final visit to the Old Town Square, a last Trdelnik and a couple of last pictures before we headed back to the hotel.

The making of Trdlenik

The making of Trdelnik

View over the Christmas market, Prague Old Town Square

View over the Christmas market, Prague Old Town Square

I absolutely loved Prague. The crowds were quite something and I really wished I could have had at least one sunny day for some nicer pictures, which will give me an excuse to return again one day in summer!

Finally, at 2:30pm, we boarded the bus for the semi last leg of our trip, to Vienna. I was glad to put my feet up but sad to leave this beautiful city behind.

Au revoir!

 

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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Passions, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Winter in Middle Europe (part 1)

Winter in Middle Europe (part 1)

December 18, 2016

Travelling from sunny South Africa, in the midst of summer to Central East Europe in December is not for the faint hearted. Our departure was at midnight on the 18th of December and we had quite a long commute, via Amsterdam and Vienna, finally taking a train from Vienna to Budapest.

As usual, despite our best efforts, we were not travelling ‘lightly’, so looking at our suitcases, I knew it was going to be a bit challenging moving from place to place with suitcases, jackets, but we were off and that was all that mattered!

December 19, 2016

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Time for a snack at Amsterdam Schiphol airport

We arrived in Amsterdam Schiphol airport tired, after our overnight flight, but with time to spare before our connecting flight. We had something small to eat at the airport and perused the shops, making mental lists of what we wanted to buy at duty-free on the way back…alas, that never happened, but that is a story for another day. Anya did get a pair of gloves (we never wear gloves in South Africa, like in never).

We arrived in Vienna and hastily made our way to the train station for the train to Budapest. We finally arrived in Budapest after 8:00pm on the Monday evening and was immediately met by a bunch of taxi drivers at the train station, offering lifts. The plan was to take public transport to our hotel, but we were tired, with heavy luggage and I decided to just go with the taxi. And in so doing, fell into the number 1 tourist trap (according to our walking tour guide the next day), which is taxi’s. The number 2 and 3 tourist traps in Budapest are taxi’s and taxi’s too….in case you were wondering.

We paid an equivalent of EUR28 for a 3km trip, whereas 3 single tickets would have cost about EUR3.50. The silver lining is that after that, most things felt fairly cheap in Budapest! Dinner, breakfast the next morning, were all cheaper than the taxi…

December 20, 2016

We woke up to a cold and foggy morning, but energetic and looking forward to the day. I found a popular breakfast spot in the Pest side, close to the Vörösmarty Square, but being a popular spot, it looked very full and we didn’t have much time, so we decided to go to a little cafe on the corner, Cafe Hilda. Breakfast was fresh and inexpensive and we were even treated with these little complimentary Christmas rolls filled with walnuts and poppy seeds. I think they are called Beigli.

With our tummies filled, we were ready for the walking tour. We went with Free Walking Tours, a local company, claiming to do the original walking tour in Budapest. The concept of a free walking tour is fantastic, as you normally get a local guide and as they are not being paid upfront, they are paid with tips, so they have a lot of incentive to do an excellent job. Our guide, Andrais was fantastic. He not only gave us a lot of information about the history, and local culture but also gave lots of tips on food, drinks to try and places to visit. After the tour we were given a little flyer with more information on food, restaurants, eateries and other local information.

The view of the Chain Bridge Budapest

The view of the Chain Bridge Budapest

The walking tour started in the Pest side of Budapest (on the eastern side of the Danube river) and continued to the Buda side, walking over the Chain Bridge, where we walked up the Castle hill to the Buda Castle. We strolled around at the top of the hill, seeing the Sándor Palace (or the White House), the beautiful Matthias Church with its ornate roof tiles and ended off with a glass of mulled wine a the Fisherman’s Bastion.

From the top of Buda Hill, Budapest

From the top of Buda Hill, Budapest

The Sandor Palace, Budapest

The Sandor Palace, Budapest

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In front of St Matthias Church, Budapest

In front of St Matthias Church, Budapest

From the Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest

From the Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

Buda Castle, Budapest

Buda Castle, Budapest

Afterwards, we took a slow stroll back to our apartment in the Pest side, taking in the local scenery in, doing some shopping at a local vintage shop and browsing through interesting shops. Lunch was fresh bread rolls, ham and cheese from the supermarket around the corner. Later in the afternoon, we set off in the direction of Vörösmarty Square again where the biggest Christmas market in Budapest was located. The atmosphere was very festive, with live music and the smell of pastry, mulled wine and meat in the air. We were craving the local ‘chimney cakes’ or kürtőskalács, and decided to share one.

Christmas market in Budapest

Christmas market in Budapest

 

Kürtőskalács from the Christmas markets

Kürtőskalács from the Christmas markets

Sharing is caring

Sharing is caring

We did some shopping and Anya found a wooden cut-out magnet with her name on it. Very impressed, she told the shopkeeper that it is her name, spelled correctly, after which he informed her that anya is the word for mother in Hungarian! Who would have known? This coincidence was enough to convince her to buy the magnet!

After a dinner of hungarian goulash, which came with complimentary Rákóczi Túrós, a sort of ricotta cheese cake traditionally served at Christmas, we decided to take a walk towards the river to see the lights. The Castle at night was absolutely beautiful and we were very lucky to see one of the trams that was decorated in Christmas lights as well.

A tram light up with Christmas lights

A tram lit up with Christmas lights

The Buda Castle at night

The Buda Castle at night

December 21, 2016

The plan for this day included a visit to Szechenyi baths, a mineral bath close to Heroes’ square in Budapest. The guide for the walking tour recommended going early when visiting the baths, so avoid the crowds, so we got out of bed early, armed with our swimming costumes and towels in sub zero temperatures! We could only enter the baths at 9:00am, but took a walk around the area (in light snow), taking a walk to the Heroes’ Square before our entrance. It may sounds a bit crazy, but the baths were a great idea, and definitely something different to experience! We couldn’t stay too long as we had to check out of our apartment, but we thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

Heroes' Square, Budapest

Heroes’ Square, Budapest

At Szechenyi Baths, a thermal bath in Budapest

At Szechenyi Baths, a thermal bath in Budapest

Beautiful baths at Szechenyi with the building in the background. It was -1 degrees outside the water...

Beautiful baths at Szechenyi with the building in the background. It was -1 degrees outside the water…

After sort of drying, we went back to our apartment, checked out, left our luggage and went out again.

On the way to Basilica from our apartment

On the way to Basilica from our apartment

After a light snack and hot chocolate at the Christmas market on Városháza park, we walked to St Stephen’s Basilica where we bought tickets to go up the tower. The view from the top of the tower was amazing! You can walk right around the tower and have an awesome 360 degree view over the city. Afterwards we had a look in the Basilica which was also very impressive with its domed ceiling.

View from the tower of St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

View from the tower of St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest

After our visit to the Basilica, we needed to rest our feet and stopped for coffee at Avenue Cafe, close to our apartment. I wanted to see the largest Jewish Synagogue in Budapest, the Dohány Street Synagogue, but unfortunately it was closed when we arrived, so we walked around the outside. The synagogue is the largest and Europe and the fourth largest in the world.

St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest

St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest

We walked to the most famous ruin pub in Budapest, the Szimpla Kert in the Jewish district, with very interesting decor but not much to offer in terms of dinner, so we took a long route back to a restaurant close to our accommodation again, which served delicious Italian food, the Panificio Il Basilico.

Szimpla Kert, a Ruin Pub in Budapest

Szimpla Kert, a Ruin Pub in Budapest

Finally it was time to collect our luggage and make the trek towards the station (via public transport this time!) as we had an overnight bus to Krakow.

We loved our short stay in Budapest, and I would love to go back again one day, hopefully in summer. I googled all these magnificent spots to take sunrise pictures, but alas we were not to see the sun on the days we were there, We did, however have some light snow, which ended up being the most snow we had on our trip…. So, as a final picture for this post, herewith our almost snow selfie!

Snow at Heroes' Square, Budapest

Snow at Heroes’ Square, Budapest

Next up, Krakow!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Family, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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A Turkish delight! (part 1)

A secret…I’m not much of a computer whizz…but I guess you know that. And if you received my post about Istanbul via mail and clicked on the link, you would have gotten to a blank post!

For that, I apologise profusely! When you take your time to write a post, like I do, WordPress tends to post date when you started the draft and not when you actually publish it, so I thought I ‘fixed’ my post!

So, this is to all my email followers…enjoy!

justcallmegertie

Monday, 29 June 2015

After our extended layover in Cairo, in which time we managed to do a tour to the Pyramids, we finally arrived in Istanbul at 5:30pm on the Monday afternoon. Getting through the airport didn’t take too long, and we decided to take the Metro and tram to our Airbnb accommodation in Beyoğlu, in the new part of Istanbul. The tram took us through the Sultanhamet area (old area) of Istanbul and we were literally craning our necks to try and spot the first glimpses of the Hagia Sophia and other attractions. By 7:30pm we checked into our accommodation after a very eventful taxi ride from the tram station. It was clear that drivIng a car in Istanbul requires a LOT of patience and preferably a verA Turkish delight! (part 1)y small car!

Our room was fairly small, but clean and comfortable, and since we were in…

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Posted by on August 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Happy sweet sixteen!

Today is Bianca’s 16th birthday! I can hardly believe it has been 16 years. And indeed, it has been 16 wonderful years.

She wants to get her own DSLR camera, and everyone is contributing towards this in lieu of a gift, but I wanted to do something special. So, I decided to write her a letter. And then to put the letter into a photo book. A photo book with pictures of her journey to date.

It has been a fabulous journey, and I couldn’t have been happier with the end result if I tried. I know it is no the end of the journey yet, and that the next couple of year, leading up to the magical 18th birthday will be challenging, but I think we have laid the right foundation and I am personally very excited to see how it all pans out.

Enjoy!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

A zest for life…

I have been waiting in eager anticipation for some inspiration for a funny story…but the muse has been clouded by too many work hours, too little sleep hours and maybe too many glasses of wine to drown my sorrows… (actually I am lying, I am really not drinking much at the moment, as I am so tired that I fall asleep after a single glass. I should be dating, I would be a cheap date!)

Anyway, one of my little pleasures in life recently has been watching a little bit of television with my girls in the evenings. In particular, the second season of Masterchef South Africa is currently underway, and after much trepidation, we are now really getting into it. The previous season was very disappointing (for me) as I thought the quality of the contestants were very weak and I could not believe that someone who are unable to cook a steak properly can actually make it to the top 10. So, I was a bit negative about this season. But so far, I am pleasantly surprised, and the quality of the contestants has generally been a notch or two above the previous season. (At the risk of being stoned for treason, I still think the girl who won season one of Junior Masterchef Australia will give any of the top 10 contestants a run for their money).

So, the other night we were curling up under the blankets in the winter lounge to watch the latest episode of Masterchef, when my youngest, the 11-going-on-14 year old Anya, walks into the lounge, exclaiming: “After a hard day, there is nothing like watching a bit of Masterchef.” Her sister, Bianca retorted “You’re such an adult!” Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was cracking myself up.

This got me thinking about the odd things my kids have said over the years and how it has given me many funny stories to share over the years. And I decided that my favourite Anya story ever will probably put a smile on a few people’s faces (and my own, of course!). She was about six years old at the time, and if you have known me for a while, chances are that I have told you the story…I think it is worth hearing it again!

So here goes…

It was one of THOSE Saturday mornings…we had lots to do and I was driving to and fro with the kids. Bianca had a friend’s birthday party in the afternoon and of course, I left the buying of the gift to the last minute. Buying gifts is something I do not generally like to do in a hurry, especially if it is for a special friend, so we have been debating what to buy (and where) all morning. When we eventually found something, we had to wrap it in a hurry, and I needed to drop Bianca at the friend’s house, as they were all leaving from there to go to the Ice Rink for the actual birthday celebration. Thank goodness, I didn’t need to go with.

By the time I finally dropped Bianca at her friend’s house, it was already past one o’clock and Anya and I were both starving. I decided to take her for a mother and daughter lunch and asked her where she would like to go. She said that she would like to go to Mugg and Bean, a local coffee shop that serves a pretty wide variety of meals, as well as delicious cakes, and not to mention the best Eggs Benedict. I was favourably impressed and we set off to the closest one, which opened shortly before in Woodmead.

When we were finally seated, she ordered a hot chocolate and started perusing the menu. She couldn’t actually read at the time, so I explained all the kiddies meals to her. She decided on the ‘Soccer balls and shoe laces’, which was essentially spaghetti and meatballs. We placed our orders and very soon she finished her hot chocolate and ordered another.

Anya, around the same time

Anya, around the same time

Well, when we finally got our food, she was a sight to behold. For a child who normally is quite a picky eater, she literally devoured the meal. She was making these “mmm” and “aah” and “yum” sounds while she was eating her spaghetti as if it was the last meal she would ever get to eat. I cannot for the life of me remember what I ordered, as I was fixated by this child eating to an actual sound track of enjoyment. During the meal, the manager walked over to our table and said that he personally had never seen a child enjoy their meal that much, which obviously only encouraged her further.

Finally, she slurped up the last piece of spaghetti and with a face that reminded me a bit of Winnie the Pooh after he finished a pot of honey, she sat back in her chair and sighed “Aah, life doesn’t get better than this!”

I choked on my cool drink and struggled to keep a straight face, as I was cracking myself up. Nope, there was no doubt this is a child of mine. And yes, she is definitely a bit of a drama queen, but I think she does it with flair!

At least there is one thing that you cannot say of my mothering abilities, and that is that I have not taught my kids appreciation for the good things in life!

A little reminder for all of us to start enjoying the little things in life, like a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs!

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Here, have a glass of wine…

You must have seen the email going around with the ‘Hormone guide’. There are different scenario’s and suggested phrases for men to use to cope with the female hormonal fluctuations…from dangerous to ultra safe. For example, it would be dangerous to ask “What’s for dinner?”; safer to say “Can I help you with dinner?”; safest to say “Would you like to go out for dinner?” and the ultra safe option, time and again, is “Here, have a glass of wine”…:). I think I need have this printed on a pin up….

So, okay…I am a sucker for a good glass of wine. There is nothing quite like having a glass of vino while throwing together a quick dinner in the evening to relax me. Ideally I would like to have a handsome hunk handy to fill up my glass while I chop away at the onions and herbs like a pro, and toss the el dente pasta with some freshly made pesto…but let’s not have the mind wandering here… I am sure you get the point…(and I watch too many cooking shows)

I cannot resist buying wine… One day when I grow up I want to have a house with a wine cellar, but while I dream of that, I end up stacking unopened boxes with wine around the house. For a rainy day? I am not sure, but at least I will never run out of wine! I have about three or four people phoning me on a regular basis to ask me if I want to buy wine. A typical conversation goes like this…

“Hi my friend, it’s Daisy here.” My mind starts planning an escape route….”I haven’t spoken to you in a while” (didn’t she phone me last month or was that the girl from Cape Town who always makes small talk about the weather…). Unaware of my tumultuous thoughts, Daisy continues “So the reason for my call is that we have a special on red/white (delete as appropriate) wine for this month only from (insert wine estate) and we are offering it to our special clients at a discounted price”. Note to self, I need to check the prices at Makro. Last month (or the month before) I very effectively bypassed her with a comment about soooo much wine still at home, and then she offered me a voucher for free accommodation to Mauritius with it (only for special clients, you know..). What the heck….

Or the other time, after I explained that I still have so many red wines left over, the Cape Town lady (Saskia…it’s all coming back to me now), interrupted me gently and explained that “it is that Cap de Classique that you like so much”. Now, who can say no to 6 bottles of bubbly?? Not me…

So, I am very proud of myself that I went to a wine festival this weekend and only bought two bottles of wine….(Okay, I did give my details to someone who is going to phone me about a well priced Cap de Classique…but that’s not the point). Tasted some lovely wines (and cheeses, bubbly and was that Grappa??), and chatted to all the estates. How else would I have met The Weather Girl 2009…a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion blend that’s has a 5 Star John Platter rating. You can take her anywhere and she will keep you company in any strange hotel room, like the weather girl on the TV. Sounds like the type of wine you can have by yourself on a Friday night?? (Is that Bridget Jones and “All by myself” that I am hearing?).

In the meanwhile, maybe I should spend some time labelling the wines that I have, making an inventory listing (ageing analysis?)…apparently there are some nice apps on the iPad. Stuff that, I think I need to have a big party and share some wine…then I don’t have to find excuses not to buy wine…

Which reminds me that I am running low on white wine and it is summer after all????

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Fifty shades of what?

Okay really, if you’re asking that you must have been living in a closet for the last few months…

Let me start off by saying I love reading. Like in a lot. I only started reading English books in high school so unfortunately I missed out on a lot of the classics. This year, I am trying to catch up on that and read a couple of classic english literature books, like Catcher in the Rye and To kill a mockingbird. My introduction to English writing, however, were Mills & Boons…:). I am an incurable romantic.

But I normally steer away from the hyped up books everyone is reading. I read too many Danielle Steele’s when I was a teenager and the last M&B I read was more than 3 years ago. Having said that I have been intrigued by all the hype around this book. Fifty shades of Grey. On Amazon, when I checked, there were more than 11 000 readers’ reviews. On a scale from 1 to 5 stars, 40% rated the book a five star and 33% a one star. You do the math, the rest is spread fairly equally. So people either love it or hate it. No in betweens. And the bad reviews are bad….no character building, ‘atrocious writing’, the repetition. Apparantly Ana says ‘jeez’ a total of 81 times and ‘oh my’ 72 times. The author sounds like a teenager, etc, etc, etc. Oh crap, does she?

So I decided to judge for myself. Yes, it is an erotic book, no doubt about that. Yes, there are lots of shocking (and amusing) sex scenes. And it is completely unrealistic. Jeez….the heroine is a 22 year virgin and the bad boy hero is a 26 year old self-made multi millionaire who by anyone’s standards is too good to be true. He is a fully trained pilot, employs over 40 thousand people, enjoys ‘soaring’ and sailing in his spare time, owns a helicopter called Charlie Tango and a jet. And my personal favourite, an apartment in New York. And he is hot. Very hot, especially when his pants just ‘hang off him like that’.

But he is ‘complicated and mercurial’. Actually, in his own words, he is ‘fifty shades of f***ed up’. Almost on page 100, Ana (short for Anastacia…kid you not) finally signs the nondisclosure agreement so we can find out more about the dark side to this gift to women. And gets introduced to the ‘playroom’ and his BDSM tendencies. Oh my… But, always a gentlemen, he helps her to crawl before she starts running and has ‘vanilla sex’ with her (i.e. with no toys, whips, or spanking). It really is unreal. If Will Smith plays in the movie version, I will hold my breath and wait for him to turn into an alien…!

But alas…I am still reading. I finished the first book and is more than halfway through the second. (I may not have started the second book if the first one didn’t end on a cliffhanger….). The sex scenes are getting a bit repetitive now (despite the change in scenery…the boathouse, childhood bedroom, catamaran, billiard table, grand piano, and don’t forget the elevator), but the good girl/bad boy story has me hooked… Any girl who has ever fallen for a bad boy will be able to relate. Will she be able to save this man from himself, or will he drag her down and drown her in the process. Will she be able to survive the rollercoaster and temper his insane jealousy. In real life…not a chance…but maybe it’s possible in this fairytale world. I have even shed a few tears for this broken man who doesn’t like to be touched.

So, for now I am still amazed at this runaway best seller. The paperback has been reprinted to keep up with the demand. The fastest selling adult novel of all time. In paperback and the ebook version. Incidentally, the ebook release has been credited with some of its success. Women, who otherwise wouldn’t have been caught dead reading this ‘smut’ will download and read the kindle version…:). Apparently the London Tube is a little bit hotter than normal this summer!

I certainly won’t put the book on any list of ‘books to read before you die’ but I have actually enjoyed it and I suspect I will buy the 3rd book in the trilogy as well. The last book that managed to keep me up past my bedtime was the ‘Millennium series’ trilogy…

But please……no sequels??

 
4 Comments

Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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