Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sashimi-ing Around Budapest

So I'm back pedalling to the start of September...specifically an incredible trip to Budapest with my friend (and guest-star model of this post) Alice.

Safe to say Budapest swept me unexpectedly off my size four feet. A city of gastronomy, riotous architecture, turbulent history and superb shopping (I can't help but mention the beautiful prices), the cultural mélange that sweeps along its grand boulevards and labyrinthine back streets means each day yields a new discovery. It's a sensory delight; from the hybrid cuisine (classic Hungarian, Italian and French bistro food combined), to the jigsaw puzzle of buildings, the musical tendencies (at one of the spectrum there's commercial playlists blasting in the Ruin Bars, at the other there's trap parties aboard former Ukrainian cargo ships) and the too-good-to-be-true afternoons of relaxation in the Spa Baths. Whatever you're in the mood for, Budapest will serve it up (under a snowstorm of fiery orange paprika, of course.)

My tangent ramblings about a city bursting at the seams with things to do leads me to the actual subject of this post. Naturally, in Eastern Europe, when you are dead on your feet from hours spent in a crocodile of tourists wandering around the cavernous Parliament building, you turn to the nearest sushi restaurant for nourishment. Well, we did. Despite the flawed geographical connection between our choice of cuisine and the country we were in, it was a couple of hours very well spent. We emerged in a state of cat-like content, refuelled by sushi, and and having far surpassed our Wasabi limits! 

I'm still fairly new to the delicate rainbow coloured combinations of rice, fish and vegetables - this was my first time in an actual sushi restaurant (Yo Sushi doesn't count) therefore resident-expert Alice was on hand to navigate the extensive menu. Twenty minutes, two waitresses and three changes of mind later... a homemade mango lemonade that tasted even better than it looked, a bowl of perfectly sea-salted edamame beans and a platter of finely-crafted sushi arrived. Vibrant mango and tuna, avocado and sesame-spiked salmon, and cucumber and foie-gras rolls graced our table.
 I love the ritual involved with sushi: pour the soy sauce, mix in the fiery wasabi then layer a slice of ginger on top. It's refined, delicious and understated...not to mention surprisingly filling. 

Edamame addicts....

The interior of the restaurant was just as great as the food - Fuji, Budapest operates in a slick, polished atmosphere with just a hint of hectic Tokyo thrown in. Eye-popping geometric wallpaper, neon lights and multi-faceted, snaking mirrors mimic Tokyo's hedonism and you dine under the vigilant eye of a giant futuristic robot. It's well worth a trip, if not just for the heavenly homemade lemonades! I've set my sights on their lavender-infused creation for next time...

However before ascending the sushi ladder (or literally, in the case of the Heron Tower) to the high-class affairs at Sushi Samba or Nobu, my chop-stick technique needs serious revision... 

Have a wonderful week! 


Saturday, 11 April 2015

Twelve Hours, Three Trains and Tignes

'Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversation than a moving plane, ship or train. At the end of hours of train-dreaming, we may feel we have been returned to ourselves - that is, brought back into contact with emotions and ideas of importance to us.' 
(Alain de Botton)

My new-found bible 'Calm' by Michael Acton Smith (a spot-on birthday present from Freya of Fashion People) describes travelling as 'a moment of peace in suspended animation.' It's safe to say that I'm in a state of suspension right now; situated on the Eurostar, precisely half way between London and Paris. I'm enjoying this moment of liminality in my happy little bubble, earphones in (Alt J of course) and writing, letting the excited exclamations of the two ten-year old sisters next to me fade into the background. They are actually on a day trip to Paris with their Grandad, hence the giggling I'm hearing as they practice saying 'Sacré-Coeur' in their best Frog accents and exploring the Eurostar. Getting from coach 1 - 13 and back in the shortest possible time is currently their ultimate goal! 
Ten-year olds aside, I've surprised myself. The prospect of twelve hours spent on and off French trains was not something I was particularly looking forwards to but it turns out that time spent au-train does provide a golden slice of solitude. I can't check my emails, Facebook or Instagram and I long ago gave up on the idea of writing any essays. Forced to turn away from the little red icons symbolising day to day productivity, I am making the most of this opportunity to 'just be' - mindful of my surroundings, other people and my own state of mind. Whilst waxing romantically lyrical on the benefits of travelling, I should perhaps explain the reason why I'm spending such a disproportionate amount of time on trains. 

Currently, I am on my way to Tignes, the highest resort in the French Alps to catch the last week of winter snow on skis. It's so convenient to be able to hop on a train more or less from my house and voilà...arrive in Tignes! (Three trains and twelve hours later, but who's counting anyway.) And so far, so smooth. No major mishaps, minus the fact I accidentally broke a ticket machine at the Eurostar terminal, I arrived in my seat on time and relaxed, flat white in hand- unspilt. It's highly unlikely that this smooth travel trajectory will last. When going to Paris one must do as the French do (although my choice of an Australian coffee perhaps slightly negates this) hence my quick nip across to Pain Quotidien for a taste of freshly baked flaky pastry: the obligatory almond croissant + morning coffee combination is a surefire way to kickstart the day! 

What Alain de Botton calls 'train-dreaming' is absolutely something I'm doing right now. Staring out the window, the world flashes by. It's all a little indistinct, the fields and sky blurring into horizontal bands. Cue 'Hazy' by Glass Animals.  This meditative state that I'm being lulled into is really quite nice. As much I'm trying this whole 'blissful thoughtfulness' business, my brain simply refuses to empty so I'm thinking about dreams. My dreams are often a bit wild and always vivid, more like waking hallucinations that stay with me the next day rather than night-time images that are relegated to the early hours. Judging from the most recent copy of Stylist, their editorial team seem to have this uncanny ability to read my mind. Lo and behold, a several page long feature on dreams and their relevance to women. Labelled by Carl Jung as 'a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul' interpreting your night time dreams allows us to realise factors of stress, anxiety, excitement and emotion in our waking lives. Following on, dreams go hand in hand with travel meditation, which restores us to ourselves - De Botton's quotation illustrates this perfectly. Exploring what makes you tick can be both unnerving and interesting, but ultimately it's something to embrace not shy away from. Women define themselves (perhaps unconsciously) through social relations and their interactions with fellow others, naturally being anthropocentric. Therefore these 12 hours I am spending with me, myself and I (and a few fellow French passengers) may reveal an unrealised facet of my own psyche, one that operates independently of the people I surround myself with in daily life. 

Anyway, that's enough for the minute, I'm heading back to my train-dreaming, Alpine contemplation and internal conversation.

A belated Happy Easter, I'm off to the slopes!