Macarons and Lightning, very, very frightening (and tasty too!)

Try reading that title to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen….

So, Marta had never had Macarons/Macaroons before, and we came across this little stall in a shopping centre that was selling them, so I decided to get some as a little treat.  Previously she thought they were some sort of wafer with a flavoured centre, but despite my attempts to explain them I couldn’t quite describe them properly.  I guess you really do just need to taste them to find out.  These ones from the company Le Roy & Louis (maybe an attempt at ‘poshing up’ the name Leroy?!?!)  were pretty good, nice amount of crunch on the outside with a good squidgy centre.  The Pistachio and the Chocolate were the best, the other two (Raspberry and Blackcurrant) were also good, but I think the Pistachio and Chocolate are a bit more classic.  We munched them down with gusto when we got home, alongside a nice cup of Sencha Sakura tea.

That night there was the most spectacular thunderstorm, I have literally never seen or heard anything like it before.  The amount of lightning strikes was just amazing, the whole sky was lighting up like a strobe in a smokey nightclub.  It was just amazing.  We went to the top floor of the apartment block, 10 stories up and watched the three storm formations circle around us.  Despite the number (literally hundreds) of strikes it is surprisingly hard to take a photograph of the lightning.  It took me the best part of 700 photos to get just three shots of the lightning, and only one of those was really something special.  They are all below.

Enjoy!


An evening amongst wild Sweet Peas, Sunshine and Cherries.

After a day spent indoors avoiding the extreme 35’C heat we headed out in the evening, when the sun was getting low and the temperature a bit more reasonable. Most days all you have to do is walk out of the door and you are soaking in sweat, sorry to be so graphic! This evening, the same one as the Tram evening in the previous post, we headed vaguely North West out of the flat, past the Tram depot and some lovely allotment gardens, then ended up alongside the train track and eventually stumbled upon what must have been allotments in the past.  We discovered beautiful pink Sweet Pea flowers growing wild as well as a few old cherry trees that were offering up some lovely ripe fruits, which we gobbled with smiles on our faces. They were juicy and sweet, with just the right amount of sourness in them.  We walked a little more, then the Mosquitoes woke up and seemed hungry, so we did an about turn and headed home.


Day 117 – 119, Cologne & Nijmegen, May 6th – 8th 2012

Tea 117, Ice Tea, Nijmegen

Tea 118, Apple Ginger, Cologne

Tea 119, Lavender & Camomile, Cologne

Day 117, Sunday.  Actually managed a trip to The Netherlands!  The day was spent with lazing about and walking the dog.  We cooked a very good coconut curry, with courgette and peppers and black Soya Bean noodles. Sehr Gut!  Then in the late afternoon we headed to a town in The Netherlands (which isn’t actually so far from Cologne) called Nijmegen.  The purpose of our trip?  To go and see a band that Regina really enjoys and had bought tickets for, called Dry The River.  The gig was good, the town very very small, but there was a good atmosphere and we got some good fries with satay sauce for our pre-gig snack.  Then at the gig I went for an extremely hardcore drink choice of an Ice-Tea with a nice slice of lemon and a stirring stick!  The gig was good fun.  The band played well.  Then we headed back to Cologne.

Day 118, Monday.  A bit of a disastrous day in terms of photos.  I walked all the way to the Dom, Cologne’s Cathedral, took my camera out of my bag, switched it on to find the lovely message of ‘No Card’…. BRILLIANT!  So absolutely no photos were taken on this day, including on the Agfa because I’d chosen to leave that at the flat instead of carrying it about.  Anyway, I obviously walked to the Dom, enjoying the sunshine, then around and to the Rhein.  I sat there for a while, mostly to eat a packet of onion rings (mmm a nice nutritious lunch!), and just to sit and contemplate stuff, as you do.

Dinner was mashed potato (white and Sweet varieties), onion gravy and these crazy ‘lupin fillets’.  They are made from the seeds/peas of the Lupin plant.  They tasted kind of cakey, but worked well with our home made onion gravy.

That evening me and Regina met up with a couple of her friends and we wandered around the town in the evening as the sun was going down, with a bottle of beer in hand and some chat. It was a fun evening.

Day 119, Tuesday, also the official end of WW2, or VE day.  A bit more success in terms of carrying my camera with me at least!  I visited Melaten, a large, neat and well kept cemetery.  I wandered around it for a while, there was a funeral happening in one part.  So this made me decide not to be around snapping photos for too long so I left and went back to the area we walked around the night before.  We had seen a bike shop there that sells second hand bikes too.  I checked a couple out and will head back tomorrow for a test ride of one they were in the middle of fixing up… we’ll see…

I came home for some lunch then headed back into town, though avoiding the demonstration that was meant to be happening at a nearby mosque… (I had been told that there might be some violence, especially from the right wingers)  I just explored the quieter areas a little bit using Regina’s bike.  It was good to use one again (though the seat is too low for me and so it wasn’t the most comfortable experience!)

The evening has seen me sit on the sofa and drink tea whilst Regina carries on unpacking boxes and sorting out her bookshelves!  I also sneakily fed the dog (Lumpi) some peanut butter…


Day 79 – 81, Warsaw, March 28th – 30th 2012

Tea 80, Loads of Yunnan Green Superior for study support!, the apartment, Warsaw

Tea 81, Sencha Sakura, the magic teapot (above), Warsaw

Day 79, well, what happened on this day?  I guess not a great deal, we did go and pick Marta’s coat up from the dry cleaners and then wandered around in the sunshine, it was a little windy today so much of our time was spent trying to avoid the wind tunnels between buildings.  We wandered around Jana Pawla for a while visiting the places we didn’t manage to go to the night before, the little tea shop, which is a bit expensive, then into the XX1 gallery to see the show that is on at the minute, although I think it might be shut now.  ‘Transfusion’ by Pavel Novak, apparently the Polish version of a super common name such as my own!  He had presented a few paintings alongside a sculptural glass installation of clear glass heart casts.  The work looked good in the space, especially with the sun beating through the window, glistening from and through the glass casts.  They weren’t exactly presented perfectly in the space though, somewhat ‘plonked’ on the end of white poles.  The press release seemed to say they should appear to be floating at heart level, but they weren’t floating.

Day 80, Thursday, we didn’t really leave until late, later than we had intended really.  Marta was studying for a job interview most of the day, I did pop to Galleria Mokotow for a short while to buy some eye moisturizer stuff from the pharmacy, as I had managed to lose my other one somewhere between Torun and Warsaw.  When we did eventually leave we headed straight to central and to a photo development shop where we dropped off Marta’s first ever medium format Holga film!  That was very exciting, and they had it ready in an hour, which amazed me, stuff like that in the UK usually takes about 2 weeks!  While we waited we went back to Zacheta, to see the newly installed sculptural installation show called ‘New Sculpture?’.  The show is good, I’m glad I got to see the other spaces in this gallery.  There were various large scale works by a number of artists including Martin Boyce (giving me a sentimental thought of Glasgow) and  Mai-Thu Perret, as well as others.  We wandered around in there for a while, attracting various suspicious glances from the guards.  The security guards in Poland are pretty hardcore, even more so in the health and beauty stores, Rossman’s is the worst, they may as well handcuff you as you walk through the door, and don’t even think about going in for a simple browse, not unless you are a massive fan of the serial voyeur!

Show seen we headed back outside, then had a whistlestop run around the old town to try to find a shop we had been to before that sells a great almond cake, we found the shop but sadly no almond cake!  Then we had to rush back to the photo shop to collect the film, but not without a quick diversion to the donut place on Chmielna to fulfill our sweet cravings.  We were both quite excited about the Holga results.  We really didn’t know what to expect, especially as the film that Marta had bought was such a cheap one that we didn’t even know if we had put it in around the right way to begin with!  But we were not disappointed!  The results were very pleasing, though we both realised that we had been a bit foolish, Marta had been using the different colours of the flash when she had taken the photos.  But it turned out we had both totally forgotten the film was black and white!  Needless to say coloured flashes are utterly pointless in this case!  Two of the photos are below, so I must credit Marta for them!

Day 81, the last day of employment for Marta!  And also a job interview for her too!  She had headed for this very early in the morning, I just about remembered to wake up and wish her good luck, before crashing back into sleep again.  When I eventually awoke I spent some time on the computer before deciding to head into town.  This was made a little difficult, I had been locked in!  Marta had accidentally taken the keys with her to work.  I sent her a message asking where they were, she looked in her bag and there they were.  Luckily she managed to get permission from her work to come back and free me.  Once that fiasco was sorted I went into town and walked around the shops for a while.  The biggest thing on my mind was (and is) a hunt for this camera, a DIY lomo (yes, Marta’s Holga experience has inspired me).  But this is a little different, one you build yourself from total scratch and that uses standard 35mm film.  It’s called a DIY Recesky Twin Lens Reflex (or TLR), and looks like it could be good fun.  I spent a lot of time searching around in the camera and gadget and toy shops, but to no avail.  I think I am going to have to buy it online when I am in Berlin, the problem is the delivery times, but I will still keep looking for the next few days I think.

After the fruitless search I went and met Marta outside her work.  She arrived carrying a load of stuff including some leftover cake from her goodbye cake collection and a goodbye present she had been bought, the fantastic teapot you can see above.  The cups are double-walled to keep the tea warm for longer!  A really great present, in my opinion!  We christened it with some Sencha Sakura, a floral, delicately flavoured tea (she had been bought this as well as some Chinese Sencha and two flower teas).  The tea was good, delicate and green, a very good sencha, and the flavoured aspect was very well balanced and didn’t take away from the tea too much!


Day 45, Warsaw, February 24th 2012

Tea 45: Pu Erh Chocolate Cake, Marta’s Apartment, Warsaw.

First things first, but it seems I have forgotten how to count and have managed to add a day onto my travels as if by magic, so the last three posts have been updated with the correct travel day.

So, Pu Erh Chocolate Cake tea.  This tea is very unusual, as if you probably couldn’t guess that anyway.  Pu Erh tea, for those of you who do not know, is a partially fermented tea, and with a very unusual flavour, rather aquired I would say, but once you are into it I’m sure you will enjoy it’s complexity.  This one is reasonably smooth for a Pu Erh, not too much bitterness or dustiness.  The chocolate element is very interesting, similar to the chocolate tea I had in Helsinki.  The tea itself is very dark and thick, like the colour of black treacle.  It is intriguing and I can’t make up my mind about it, I feel I need to experiment with it some more, maybe with sweetness and with different steepings.

Today I didn’t go into the city centre until the late afternoon, the morning was spent catching up with life, finishing off some bits and bobs for an artist residency program myself and another are running in the summer, which will actually be in Poland, albeit a completely different part of the country to where I am now, and the two do definitely feel a world apart! And resting my oh so tired legs from the previous days marathon walk…!

Eventually making it out of the house I was walking towards the Metro station thinking to myself, ‘the pavement is very wet’.  Puddles everywhere!  But then I realised that all the snow had melted!  The grass was back, albeit very muddy, but it was grass, which it feels as though I haven’t seen in over a month!  I made it to the Metro, bought a 20minute ticket and was about to validate it through the barrier when I noticed that there were trains sitting at both platforms, and neither were moving… I waited a few more seconds to see if their doors would slide shut but they didn’t and then an announcement came over the tanoy, which I can only presume said the Metro was not operational, as everyone began to leave the station.  I left and found the Bus stop, as did basically everyone who had been in the metro station.  Eventually the bus arrived, already loaded with people our stop must have basically trebled the number of people.  Sardines in a can is not an appropriate metaphor, but it’s the best there is!  The next problem… the bus follows the same route as the Metro, meaning it stopped at all the metro stops into town.  And being as the entire Metro was down, every stop had a massive crowd waiting for a bus, many of which still thought it possible to get themselves onto the bus… click HERE for a scene that is very similar…

Eventually we got into town, me with my arms directly over my head for the entire journey until Warszawa Centralny, where everyone got off except for about 5 people!  I stayed on until Zacheta, where I was meant to meet Marta.  We were intending to visit the Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, or contemporary art gallery.  Unfortunately though this was shut today because they are currently installing a new show.  So, I took out the map and found some other places nearby that we could go to.  We first tried to find a little place called Galeria Kolonie, but we failed at this task, I think it might be in an office building, but we couldn’t seem to find it unfortunately.  Then we stopped off at a little place that sells traditional Polish doughnuts, this is a little window out onto the street.  A lady stands and serves you, whilst in the background the kitchen is a hive of doughnut baking activity.  I chose a chocolate and cherry one as well as a more traditional Rose Marmalade one.  They were warm, sweet and utterly delicious!  I scoffed them down much too fast, but they were SO good!  We then decided to look for another gallery space, this time on the opposite side of the Palace of Science and Culture.

We wandered through the neon and traffic light filled streets to the Palace which was lit up in the darkening sky.  Wandering around looking at the sculpture that adorn it’s walls, there is a little ice rink set up on one side for those of you who enjoy a little bit of skating.  The building is all divided into different sides, youth centres, sporty bits, cultural parts and of course science.  On the other side of the building we crossed a Zebra-Crossing designed to look like the keys on a piano and then turned left down a little street with a large neon announcing ‘MUZEUM’.  This is the Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie, sort of.  The museum doesn’t actually exist yet.  It is currently in construction phase, and is planned to be opened in 2014.  This space is a temporary space for small shows and examples of the work they hold.  And currently they are actually running a KINOMUZEUM, a free cinema showcasing many new films.  They opened with the premiere of Steve McQueen‘s Shame, we managed to see a new film by Miranda July called The Future.  I’m not a big one for reviewing films, but needless to say we were both glad we had stuck around.  I can’t totally make my mind up about how I feel about the characters, at some times they were infuriating, whilst at others very sweet.  If you like Miranda July films definitely see it, it also reminded me a bit of The Science of Sleep, a film I love, so if you like that then you should see this too (though it’s not so good).  Anyway, I suppose that was a bit of a review.

The film finished and we headed back out into the night, the air had turned a bit chilly and a slightly icy wind was billowing up the gaps between the skyscrapers.  We got a tram that took us directly home, cooked some tasty food for our now angrily rumbling tums and eventually went to sleep.