Archive for October, 2009

So much chocolate and so little time

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

We woke up early this morning and decided to watch the Grand Prix. Well to be honest, Maria woke up and decided to watch, we then didn’t have much choice. I don’t think John minded but I could have done without. Breakfast was great, just about anything you could think of up to and including Tarte Citrone, not something I’d associate with breakfast, but very nice.
We then went out to look at the antique market. It’s amazing what people will pay good money for. A group of people waving banners and playing West African music drifted by, adding a bit of colour to the scene.
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I was keen to get started on buying chocolate. We started with some macaroons from a place which seems to feel chocolates, biscuits and cakes should be works of art.
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We worked our way around the Place de Grand Sablon (the name of this square) looking at and buying chocolates as we went. At one point we met some girl scouts collecting for charity, we’ve always supported the Scouts.
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Some of the shops have lovely signs.
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We ended up at a patisserie for a quiet sit down and a piece of cake. I think Maria’s might have been bigger than mine, and she was very niggardly about letting me have a taste.
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We dropped off the chocolates and decided to have a look at the church at one end of Sablon. It was built in the 15th and 16th centuries and is very gothic. There are some lovely statues outside, I particularly likes this little Madonna and child.
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Maria took to this statue of a woman with a child and a handbag. She says she hopes it is a saint ‘cos she’s never seen a saint with a handbag before.
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The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Sablon. Apparently in the 15th century a woman named Beatrice had a vision of Our Lady asking her to go to Antwerp and collect a little regarded statue and take it up the river to a small chapel on the Sablon. She put it in a boat and although her husband was too tired to row against the flow the boat floated upstream under it’s own power.
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Later the statue is credited with stopping the local outbreak of the plague.It is now paraded round in a big procession every year.
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Back to England tomorrow.

Goodbye to Hungary

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Well, it’s time to go home. I must say I really enjoyed the holiday but I’m probably ready to go home. We left the castle early in the morning, after a quick visit to the wine cellar. We now have 81 bottles of wine!! With a quick stop to buy a dinnye (watermelon) we set off for Neurenburg. A long drive, but luckily no particular problems. We stayed at an inn we used in a previous trip and set off early again this morning.
A good trip until we were about an hour away from Brussels when we hit some awful traffic. We crawled along for some time and Maria got very ratty about the drivers who decided to take the hard shoulder, unfair and dangerous.
Brussels was full of cars and John got pretty harassed trying to get round to our hotel We are staying in the old part of Brussels in the NH Du Grand Sablon. An area we have never stayed in, seems very nice and full of character. We were lucky enough to get an upgrade and the view from our room is lovely.
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There is an antique fair going on in the square at the moment, we thought we’d have a look tomorrow. Today we dropped our bags and had a wander around, sussing out the chocolate shops. There are some wonderful (and expensive looking) shops around here.
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We chose some chocolates to sample tonight, before doing some serious chocolate shopping tomorrow.
It’s difficult to choose when there is such a variety.
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Just a quick listen to a busker and a bit of window shopping, then back to the hotel.
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We had a lovely meal in the hotel restaurant (Italian), and then Maria was thrilled to find we can get BBC1 on the TV, she’s been suffering from Strictly Come Dancing withdrawal. We’re intending to get up early tomorrow to watch the Grand Prix and then take it easy. A bit of sight seeing and a lot of chocolate shopping.

In search of the elusive paprika.

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The castle we’re staying at is lovely. It was built at the beginning of last century and has been a hotel for the last four years.
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The interior is very impossing, including our room. Full of carved wooden furniture, a bit heavy for an ordinary house but very in keeping with the castle. I particularly like the staircase.
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There is a carved dragon at the bottom of the stairs on each floor. I know they’re only made of wood but they still look pretty scary, today I got up the courage to climb one of them.
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Today we were going to finish off the shopping and then perhaps do some sketching or John has found out about some Roman ruins. So off we went to the nearest Tesco, it had only been open for a short while, so it had a sort of unfinished look about it, it certainly didn’t seem well stocked. We were after paprika. We have a Hungarian friend, Johnny Pusztai, who is a butcher back home and makes excellent kolbasz, but he can’t get proper Hungarian paprika in any quantity back home. So we promised him that we’d take him 10 kg or so. There was no way the Tesco could supply that. So we set off to another Tesco. It was better and we managed most of our shopping, but still no paprika.
Maria then suggested rather than going from Tesco to Tesco we go to Kalocsa, one of the two paprika areas of Hungary and try there. A good suggestion, there was a Paprika House, where we found out more about the production of paprika than I for one ever wanted to know. We also found out why home produced paprika made in the traditional manner is much better than the mass produced stuff in the shops. We were told of a source for the home produced paprika. Having acquired 12 1/2 kilos of it and stopping only for a quiet sit down and cake, and a look at a rather nice memorial fountain to the women of 1956, we headed back to the castle.
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We were booked in for a wine tasting at the castle at 6pm, so we had to give the sketching and Roman ruins a miss. The cellar was only about 150m from the castle, but mostly vertically. Maria was very good about not moaning too much and the view was excellent.
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There are extensive vineyards and orchards, and the castle makes its own wine and palinka.
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We got to taste a selection of both with a very knowledgeable chap called Molnár Ferenc. He is obviously very enthusiastic about the subject and made it all very interesting.
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Tomorrow morning before we leave he is opening the wine shop for us so we can buy some. Where we are going to put it I don’t know.