People of Budapest

Street Car Commuter
Old Friends
On the Danube Promenade

Budapest, Hungary. 2018

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Book Sellers on the streets of Budapest

Bookseller cart in Budapest

I have friends who love books.

They love the weight and heft of physical books. They love the smell of paper and the tactile feel of  pages. They love the discovery of novels, of tales and story, of facts and history. They’ll see a stack of books and interrupt their day to look for the next great read.

I have friends who’d love the book sellers on the streets of Budapest.

Budapest, Hungary. 2018

Goulash Gulyás Everywhere

Goulash

Goulash gulyás everywhere. We must be in Hungary!

I had my first bowl of this famous soup in a little étterem just outside of Budapest’s Central Market.  Truth be told, the first spoonful reminded me Campbell’s Vegetable soup. However a dollop of hot paprika paste quickly lifted it from bland to tasty. Packed with meat and potatoes and partnered with some excellent bread, it was a fine lunch.

The essential ingredient in goulash is paprika and the finest paprika is sold in the Central Market. This particular stall sold all kinds of paprika but they also made their own. Lined up on display, the packages looked like artisan ground coffee. Certainly, they were as fragrant. I purchased a couple bags to take home. But you know how fresh coffee can smell so delightful in the shop but overpowering at home? It’s the same with freshly roasted paprika.  Back in the hotel I had to doubletriple, quadruple bag the packets to muffle the smell.

Freshly ground paprika in Sweet, Hot and Smoked flavors
Paprika is made from red peppers. Dried, roasted and ground, the different levels of heat is a function of the type of pepper and the presence of seeds in the grind.

I love visiting markets and seeing the foods on display. When I look at the fruits, vegetables and meats, I am inspired to cook. In European markets, produce is relatively easy to identify but meats can be challenging.

For instance, in one stall I saw a huge tray of glisteny fresh chicken (csirke) livers that had me hankering to fix pate.  In another stall, the eye catching display of rich red poultry meat had me thinking of duck magret and boneless confit. As it turns out, pulyka is actually turkey. Unlike in Canada, in Hungary the whole bird is butchered and sold fresh in portion friendly cuts. What a good idea!

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Budapest, Hungary. 2018

Postcards on the Seine

Les Cartes Coquines

The banks of the river Seine are lined with fold-up vendors (les bouquinistes) selling classic prints and old postcards.  Thousands of people jostle by on their way to Notre Dame.  Along with all the other tourists, I took the requisite (but boring) photos of the cathedral.  I also took shots of these iconic stalls.

Later that day I processed the photos and found a gem of a montage.  Mixed in with the prints of Chat Noir and Moulin Rouge were photos of two saucy ladies from the 1920’s.

The Mona Lisa is placed right beside them.   If you look closely, you can see her rolling her eyes.

Paris, France. 2018

Surprise Un, Deux, Trois

It’s been ten years since we last visited Paris and I’d forgotten the minor incongruities of the vivre à la parisienne. 

I remember now that old Parisian homes, which are so beautiful to look at, have all the architectural foibles of eighteenth century design  retrofitted into twentieth century needs.  Case in point – Stairs and Indoor Plumbing.

Our AirBNB was on the second (in French parlance) floor (which is really the third floor by any other language) and accessed through a winding set of creaky wooden stairs. The well worn steps and sturdy iron rails could have evoked romantic images of people running up and down, a la Gigi or Amelie.  It did not look romantic to two people coming off a seven hour flight and sporting two hefty suitcases.  This was Surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was the spiral staircase inside the apartment. It was located at the entry, leading up to the main floor.   It looked cute and modern but was actually vicious and mean, particularly for people with dodgy knees and big (Size 7) feet.

When I was eight years old I wished mightily for a spiral staircase in my home.  I must have seen it in a movie,  where a lovely young thing ran down the castle tower to a pumpkin or a prince or some such thing.  Going up and down those stairs, I had many chances to channel my eight year old self.  I tried but my much older self complained bitterly about the frequency of going up and down.  It had to do with the plumbing, which was Surprise #3.

Spiral staircase to main floor. Note the strategically place furniture in front of stairs.

Surprise #3 was that apartment’s one and only toilet was under the spiral staircase.

The toilet which is not in the bathroom.  The bathroom is upstairs. 

It was a tiny toilet, installed (I think) according to eighteenth century plumbing.

It might not have been so bad except for the location – across from to the entry door with no dividing wall and the proximity of a full length window with look-out into the neighbor’s kitchen.

But the size. It was tiny. How tiny? Let’s just say, anyone over 5′ 5″ had to assume the position and reverse their way in.

OK. OK. Maybe I exaggerate.  There was no dividing wall between the toilet and the front door but the landlady did put a piece of furniture in front of the stairs to block the view.  And while it’s true that the window did overlook the neighbor’s kitchen, there was also a full length curtain to pull.

However, there’s no disputing the size.  Plus, it didn’t have a wash basin.  For that, we had to go to the main floor,  where the shower and sink was installed.

Hence, twice as many ups and downs those *$#@@$ darned stairs.

Paris, France. 2018