snowy Hamburg~

Having it snow here in Hamburg for almost two months is extreme for here but with all the record breaking snow fall everywhere in the states, it probably doesn’t sound as big a deal.

I am having a great time playing with Maks, the days are flying by with me laughing through them~   Today Maks lined up three gummy treats saying “I am three”  after asking me how old I am and me replying, he looked at me with shock and said “how do you get that many?”  as I laughed I was thinking, how did I get that old or how do we ever get that many gummy treats?

Yesterday I ventured to Hamburg to purchase a pair of red shoes.  This has been something I have wanted for YEARS.  Not being a big shopper it has easily slid for this long.  The other day when I was in Hamburg, I noticed in the shop windows several nice pair….then doing some research online to see what these brands were……   If I am going to purchase a pair of shoes in Germany, I would want them to be German made.  I don’t have a nice pair of shoes outside my hiking boots, boots and Birkenstock work shoes….I am now a very excited owner of the most beautiful German made brilliantly red shoes!  I LOVE THEM.

I also noticed a long line in front of this fish restaurant that also had an outdoor section of cold fish sandwiches being made and these amazing newspaper cones filled with fish and chips cooked right outdoors on this very snowy day.  I stood in line and purchased a generous cone of fabulously fresh, succulent, crispy on the outside fish and chips.  Aggressive seagulls were noticing who had a new cone and after being beaten over the head by the wing of a few over zealous ones,   I carefully took a picture of this overflowing delight….being mindful not to hold it too far away so the gulls wouldn’t snatch it.  There I stood in the snow with many others enjoying our cones full of fried piping hot lunch, listening to the accordion musician playing for us (have I mentioned my weakness for accordion music?) and my new red shoes in my bag…..the perfect day in Hamburg….

France 2010

How do I describe a trip of a lifetime?  I could talk about it for days and wish I had endless hours and computer access at the end of each day to describe it instead of recalling it in one large chunk now as I bask in the glow of it all.  Writing in my journal while traveling on the train was all I had time for.

I do have to share that I believe France to be a fun and generous place.  I have heard how rude the French can be and I do not believe it.  I am struck by the kindness I experience there.  As I traveled alone, people not only went out of their way to help me when asked, folks would approach me when it just looked like I needed something.

The food was absolutely amazing.  With a pastry shop and bakery on every corner, how do you choose?  The lines out the door definitely help.  One day I  decided to try a pain au chocolat at every boulangerie I came to from the front door of my hostel on my way to the Seine.  After three blocks and three pain au chocolat, I decided that was enough….the top pick was the one fresh out of the ovens, still warm, so buttery it actually felt like it melted in my mouth, a texture of puff pastry that I haven’t ever experienced before….

I couldn’t have possibly eaten any more cheese and bread, I would stop for a baguette for later but if it was warm, fresh out of the ovens…..half would disappear because it would never taste quite the same later…..There are open air markets to be found everyday (but Monday) to discover local artisan cheeses, fruits, meats, boulangers, seafood of ALL kinds….I went on a honey spree….I actually only sat down to a restaurant meal twice.  The self catering options from the open air markets were such a daily adventure.   I tried to try everything.

After arriving in Paris, I took the train the following day to Rouen, on my pilgrimage to enjoy the delights that changed Julia Child’s life forever.  I LOVED Rouen, what a charming city.  I had the meal and experience of a lifetime at La Couronne.  The oldest restaurant in France, starting in 1345.  I was in gastronomic bliss for just under three hours, not only was my meal spectacular, I was able to see everything else on the menu prepared for the other diners around me.  Very intimate, eight tables, an enormous fireplace and table set up near the fireplace with bottles to mix beverages.

From Rouen I caught the train to Nice.  I stayed in the hostel Villa Saint Exupery which is rated the nicest hostel in Europe.  This hostel is amazing, the services they provide are above what hotels would offer.   I took the bus to Grasse to discover the capitol of fragrance….aromatherapy being a passion of mine, I was drawn to this place.  I had an amazing crepe salees that redefined crepes for me.  Not only are the fillings endless in either savory (salé) or sweet (sucré), you can find them light and crispy or chewy, soft and made from buckwheat.

The Côte dAzur is filled with kind folks and sunshine.  Nice is beautiful, as a friend has shared with me, the light is so unique there….she is right, it truly is….

Then a train back to PARIS!!!!  I LOVE PARIS!!  I walked all the daylight hours of almost each day.  When my aching feet felt as if they could take no more and I found a metro….the sights beckoned me on, I just couldn’t miss a corner or the next block.  The architecture and history is astounding.  I walked around in awe with a huge grin on my face the whole time, a tear in my eye while I walked around the last morning bidding adieu to this grand city.

Everything happened in a handful of days….visiting the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Rodin’s museum, Notre Dame, evening boat trip down La Seine, Moulin Rouge (all I can say about this is **WOW**  A must see!!), finding my temporarily lost wallet with EVERYTHING intact (yes, I do realize this is a miracle), being interviewed by two adorable French college students, being conned by a gypsy (who was blessing me in the start but I am sure was cursing me by the end….), meeting amazing folks, finding treasures every moment in every possible way, navigating the on strike train station back to the airport with two other folks who if you saw us would be the most unlikely trio, yet it was the most amazing and funniest encounter as we stuck together…..Paris is my absolute favorite city and I don’t even like cities.  Yes, the holiday of holidays.  I could do it all over again each year and it never seem dull.

That being said, being back here in Hamburg has me filled with joy playing again with Maks and quality time with my sister.  I am truly blessed to have this opportunity~

Preparing for France

I am very excited to have the chance to visit France again. Tuesday I will arrive Paris, skip up to Rouen for dinner at La Couronne, the oldest restaurant in France and the restaurant where Julia Child fell in love with French food. Yes, it is a pilgrimage. From there I will train down to Nice and Grasse, then back to Paris for several days. I am THRILLED. I have booked my hostels, have my train schedules, bag packed and doing some futile last minute cramming of French….
Aaaaah, yes, I am in Love with France….

More from Hamburg~

Time here in Hamburg is flying by, all the fun with family is the reason I am certain.  Maks and I have been playing loads of games and crafts, pictures to follow.  Playing with Maks is an adventure always, he encourages creativity for all involved in the fun and he completely cracks me up.

Taste bud adventures:

Jen’s amazing cooking, as mentioned before, she creates beautiful and delicious vegetarian meals.

Seafood~I have tried a few things  åla carte.  Smoked salmon and fish cakes, crayfish, and a herring sandwich with pickled cucumbers, the fish so fresh it was almost creamy.

Bier~ I haven’t ever been a big fan of pilsner but here they are hoppy, full flavored and refreshing.  The Czech Budvar, the original budweiser is amazing!   I have tried a few microbrew pub pilsners and am looking forward to more.

I went to the St. Pauli’s Fischmarkt again this morning and what a riot!!  I will have to go every Sunday I am here.  It is an adventure making my way around without knowing any German but everyone is as helpful as possible.  One of the wonderful market vendors took me in and showered me with fruit, sticking more in my pockets and bags as I paid.  The baker was generous as well.  It was packed this week with loads of vendors and customers.  I will have to do some shopping there for everyone, nice craft items.

Vladimir has just returned from his brief trip to Russia with gifts for all.  He brought me lovely handmade slippers (Jen has a pair that I adored) and caviar~ YUM my FAVORITE!!!!

So we are all happily together again, feasting on fruit, bakery treats and tea on this chilly Sunday~

Best of 2009

I have been having some time to reflect upon the best of 2009. I know, it is usually done just BEFORE the New Year, but such has been my year….and since I feel I am racking up some best of 2010 already being here in Germany, I better write of the greats for 2009.

Favorite new piece of cookware: My Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven. I have always wanted one of these and although I did technically receive it as a gift for the holidays 2008, due to travels and an insane summer, I am just now feeling like I am getting some great, fun use out of it.

Favorite new cookbook: I Know How To Cook by Ginette Mathiot. This amazing book is said to be the Joy Of Cooking and bible of French cooking. It is fabulous, over 1400 French recipes, simple to use and understand. I LOVE Julie Child and where her recipes are gourmet and technical, I Know How To Cook was created by a home economics teacher. It was first published in 1932 and has sold over 6 million copies. The English version has just been released in September. For a hardcover 4 lb cookbook, it is reasonably priced and worth every penny.

Favorite new toy: My Macbook laptop!!!! Why would anyone want a desktop?? I am in LOVE with my computer and use it for everything now, also to justify the investment….I still had my first computer that was over 10 years old and not functioning compared to this *new* one, my friends warned me I would be amazed and I am. It is my research for recipes, food information and sources, my internet radio, my movie viewing device and my yoga class that I can take outside in the sunshine on beautiful days. The reason I finally have a blog is right here….

Favorite self made Tradition: The tradition of hiking Borestone Mountain on my birthday. For the last two years of this tradition’s creation, it has been the picture perfect day, sunny, dry, crystal clear and no black flies in sight. A most uncommon and honored day for Springtime in Maine.

Favorite event: Circus du Soleil in Quebec City. I have always wanted to see Circus du Soleil and Quebec City. I was fortunate enough to have both in one quick trip. It was very abbreviated due to my August schedule, one evening and racing back but worth it and the drive was part of the adventure! Circus du Soleil was so incredible, I had tears of joy and amazement streaming down my face the whole first act.

Favorite trip: Of course my trip to Switzerland to visit my beautiful sister, my sweet nephew and her wonderful husband. I had the time of my life, hiking the Alps, eating the best cheese and chocolates, playing with my (then) two year old nephew and everything about being with family.

Favorite escapist activity: My sanctuary in the bathtub.

Favorite DIY project: My wood fired clay oven!!

Favorite promo: My *new* and improved website that Jess and Matt LeClair created for me!!  www.enchantedkitchen.org

Favorite food adventure: Switzerland and Italy, need I say more?!

Favorite Food event: The Kneading Conference the last weekend in July held in Skowhegan Maine. I cater this amazing event that brings bakers in from all over the country and Canada for a two day baking adventure in wood fired ovens. This conference covers the process of baking from the farmers who grow the grain, to milling to the hand formed, wood fired loaf. Workshops also include making your own clay oven and baking everything from bread to your whole dinner and sweet treats in these beautiful artisan ovens.

Please share YOUR favorites of 2009, the comment section is all yours~

Cheers~

Hoofin’ it around Hamburg

There is something to be said about being a pedestrian in Hamburg….you definitely have the right of way.  It is odd.  Drivers just SEE you on the curb of a cross walk and they stop, even if you are checking traffic from the other direction.  There are two types of pedestrian crossings, a crossing that has a light for pedestrians and another for drivers and a crossing that has lines in the road that is an unlit crossing.  Pedestrians are also very serious.  They DO NOT cross the road when there is a light for walking that is red.  There may not be a car in sight, no matter, they still wait until the little red person turns green.  And if you DARE to cross because there is not a car in sight, the people waiting for the green on the other side give you a most disdainful glare.  I have yet to hear a horn beep at another driver.  Very courteous traffic.  There are cameras mounted on posts at lights that, if you are speeding, takes an accurate photo of your car, plate and YOU and then sends you a ticket in the mail!

I am trying to sample ALL the bread, pastries, beer, wine, local food…..it is all research after all….I LOVE what I do!!

Cheers!!

Exploring Hamburg

This weekend has been sprinkled with exploring Hamburg.  Friday I walked around the parks and river, you can walk from park to park all over Hamburg, it is said to be the largest green space city in Europe and it is spectacular.  Well kept parks that are  filled with people strolling, children, joggers, dogs and huge trees of all sorts and botanical gardens.  Since it is the great German freeze, everything is covered in snow and ice, steps and walk ways are treacherous.   A word here about the weather, there hadn’t been this much snow when I arrived in 20 years and it has pretty much snowed every day since I landed almost two weeks ago.  You can imagine what it is like.  German’s are a hardy folk.  I had read before leaving that when packing for a trip, unpack half your clothes and double the money.  I would think again about the taking out half the clothing next time.  Perhaps I am a seasoned packer because this was a bit of a mistake.  I under packed on warm comfy clothing.  Being with my sister I have nice warm options for tops but she is much thinner than I.  Note to self:  just pack yoga style pants when hanging out with a three year old.  You need the flexibility those pants offer.

The river Elbe is huge and busy with cargo barges, river boats, commuter ferries and offers a lovely path and beach all the way along it for walkers and runners.

Saturday after dark was a quick run to the city.  Vladimir, my sister’s husband, accompanied me to show me a few things.  We went to the microbrew pub, Groeninger cellar, that has been around since the 1800′s, they serve their pilsner brew made on the premises in beautiful copper vats.  I had my first brotworst with spicy mustard on the street and checked out the Reeperbahn, the original red light district and sin city.  It was pretty seedy but becoming trendy with fancy restaurants and bars as well as all the sex shows.  There was a bakery that had some body part cakes….it is amazing the accurate detail one can achieve with fondant and air brushing these days….              The beer is not my favorite so far (blasphemous statement I know), I prefer the dark, heavy, chewy English styles.  Pilsner and lagers (although much tastier here than most stateside pilsners) are not my preference so I have been enjoying the wines.

This morning held getting to the St. Pauli Fischmarkt at 6am in the blizzard snow (German’s blizzard conditions that is and snowing with earnest).  This was a blast.  The market started in 1703 and opens at 3:30am until 10am.  Many folks have been up all night.  The market is only open on Sundays and is filled with not only fish vendors but a full market, loads of fruit.  ”Buy ins” are the norm it seems at this market.  Everyone was set up in this snow, some vendors drinking champagne.  There was an indoor place with a live band that was part of the market, we went in to the band playing Johnny Cash’s Burning Ring of Fire.  People were sleeping on the tables, most still drinking and dancing.  There was a beer tent and few hot food vendors.  Outside and at the subway, folks were walking around with plastic jugs of beer, backpack of plastic cups and platters of snacks, a party on foot.  The subway trains were incredibly clean.

Tuesday on my walk into town I will take more pictures since it will be day time.  Hoping to be able to figure out posting photos here in the morning…..

Time flight

I cannot believe I have been here just over a week. The days are flying by, thank goodness I have an extended visit, otherwise a couple weeks would seem like a mere few days.

Maksism of the week: “what’s that?!” Him pointing at my upper lip. “why that is my beauty mark” “who put it there?” “I have had that all my life, since I was younger than you” “younger than me you have had your beauty mark?” “yes” “was it always fuzzy?” Me, now laughing so hard I have tears streaming down my face….which then encourages his best jokes, while I am laughing…
Now last year when he asked me what my upper lip mark was, I told him beauty mark and he asked if it sparkled which, of course, I adored and roared with laughter then also.

Tomorrow I am heading out to explore the city, I will try and figure out how to post pictures here.

I have purchased a ticket for my 10 day solo trip to France, I have to do some more exploring there while on my French obsession. Paris, Nice, Grasse and Rouen.

Each day I feel most fortunate to have this time with Jen, Maks and Vladimir.

winter wonderland

Awoke to more snow and wind, not as incredibly windy as yesterday. Swirls of snow fell most of the day. We played outside in the fresh snow, building snow families, snow angels and a snow toss of sorts (gentle snow ball fight). Visited the brand new school that Vladimir is head school master of, a very impressive building with state of the arts equipment.
Another fun day that just flew by~
Relaxing by the lit fireplace with hot tea.

A random view inside

I will have to start writing the Maksisms, they are just so funny….
We looked up jokes appropriate for a three year old and well, I think us adults laughed just as hard if not harder!! One of my favorites: What is silent and smells like carrots?
A Bunny fart!! Of course, as you can imagine, a young boy would love this too. Maks wants to test this one out, literally.
More of Jen’s magical off the cuff most amazing from scratch vegetarian feasts.
I haven’t ventured out, a wind storm is howling impressively outside….
We are six hours ahead of the east coast so it is quite late….the time change is the hard thing to adjust to.
Cheers~