Killin’ Time

It was not ever on my bucket list to be awaken at 12 in the morning by The Husband with a wild look in his eyes. Mmmmm.
Actually, that sounds like it could be fun and a girl can live in hope….but this was not quite the scenario last night. What I should add is that while he was shaking me awake, he was serenaded by tornado sirens. That sort of dampens any lascivious thoughts.

A piece of advice I don’t mind parting with, is that if there is a prediction of tornados in your immediate vicinity, maybe consider sleeping without earplugs and with clothes that night. You’ll be able to save precious minutes before climbing into the bathtub (safest place if you don’t have a basement) not looking for something situation-appropriate to wear when the sirens start bleating. Or you could be like me and say fuck-it, roll over, secure the earplugs and fall asleep again. At least I had The Husband on duty and I’m sure he would have woken me up again if the roof blew off.

Coming from deep dark Africa (cough, cough) I have somehow survived all these years without being nibbled on by lions, licked by a snake, hit by lighting or contracting a deadly disease from vicious insects. In the almost 3 months that I’m calling the US home, apart from the extreme weather, I’ve had to dodge mosquitos that apparently carries the Nile virus and had to be on the lookout for crazed honey bees. Both of which come from my continent of origin. You see the pattern here, right?

The biggest threat I can recall ever facing from animals/insects/nature was having to avoid malaria on one or two occasions. Now all of a sudden, I have to evade a swarm of bees while dodging tornados and falling debris caused by strong winds because the houses are build out of twigs, all the while trying to not be sucked dry by a virus carrying mozzie that survived golf-ball-hail.

The long weekend extreme weather excitement started on Saturday for me. We took a trip through Pennsylvania to West Virginia and on the way back, my phone vibrated like a forgotten sex-toy with a tornado alert in the area which we were driving through. TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY is not really something you want to consider while driving hell for leather on the interstate. I was hoping that I could see something in the distance but apart from dark ominous sky to the right and impressive cumulonimbus clouds in front, no funnel. Just rain. And lots of it. Oh and a rainbow! And Tilly The Tank kept us safe from killer bees and other deadly insects.

I would love to see a tornado and be able to capture the staggering cloud formations and the incredible almost other-worldly light.  But from a safe distance pretty please. And preferably during day-light hours. Although at night, I’ll be safe from the bees.

Exciting times.

 

Into a fold

Three lifetimes ago, I was on a road trip from Cape Town to Augrabies Falls and one of my most vivid memories from that trip, was the people waving at us as we drove through their little towns. It always struck me, a city chick, as an incredible endearing gesture and without fail, would cause a little tightness in the throat.

Fast forward a few decades and I find myself in the northern hemisphere and in a very strange land. Low and behold, same waving-thing happened to me the other day with just a few minor (!!!!!) variances:

  1. I was not driving anyplace that can even be remotely called rural unless you squint really hard and blur out the strip malls, billboards and cars milling about.
  2. I was most certainly not confident on where I was going.
  3. I was on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and on the opposite side of the car of what I’m used to.
  4. And lastly, I was driving as if I was gently rolling over Faberge eggs.

Tilly the Tank and I (the Jeep had to have a name, you see) were on our way to the shops and after the 3rd fellow Jeep road user gave me the two-finger-resting-on-steering-wheel-wave, I realized that I’ve been accepted in an exclusive little sub-society that I was blissfully unaware even existed. Regardless whether I might be a complete psychotic asshole, I was acknowledged and sorta-kinda accepted into the Jeep Wrangler fold, purely based on what car I was driving.

What would the reaction be if I wave back with less restrain than I have seen from my fellow Jeep-drivers? Instead of the very civil Jeep-wave, really go overboard and wave my arms in the air with a huge grin on my face, possibly even sneak one of my hands outside the car and give them a thumbs-up. Would they contact each other and send out a warning to steer clear of the overtly friendly silver Jeep driver?

The tightness in my throat still happens when I see that two finger wave. Now though, for a completely different reason.

Tilly the Tank
Tilly the Tank and me on a windy day

Baby Steps

Right.
Note to self: Stop asking people stuff.

Question: What is that bird?
Answer: It’s a black bird.

Question: What is that tree?
Answer: It’s a purple tree.

Yup. Information in the Northern hemisphere is on a need to know basis obviously! I should really invest in a book or three on the plants, birds and wildlife in Ohio….or possibly make friends with people who are interested in the same things I am. What a novel thought!

At least I know a sinister, abandoned barn when I see one!

Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 7: The City of a Thousand Spires

 

A little bit of advice I don’t mind sharing: When you stop for a wee-wee and a spot of lunch, whilst on a road trip in the Czech Republic, or in fact anyplace where you can’t speak the language, please refrain from ordering a glass of wine. It will save you a world of pain. You will also not offend the not-so-friendly wait staff, by attempting to explain your discontent with the aforementioned beverage, by pulling faces, sticking out your tongue and making gagging noises, all the while pointing at the offending liquid. So much for my success rate at playing charades….back to beer we go.

So even though the wine was brown vinegar and was probably opened in1976, the beef broth with liver dumplings sounded promising. Let’s just say that I have had better road food and leave it at that. The Husband, most certainly, hit the gastronomic jackpot this round with his standard order of Schnitzel and beer. Dammit!

Onwards to Sedlec Ossuary, also known as The Bone Church, a small chapel located in Sedlec, in the suburbs of Kutna Hora. If Prague is your base, this is easy enough to visit and should definitely be on your to-do list. Kutna Hora is about an hour’s travel from Prague.

From the outside the church looks pretty mundane. Step through the doors and let the magic happen. The interior of the church is entirely decorated by more than 40,000 human skeletons. You would expect this to be quite creepy, but the bones and skulls are so intricately and artistically arranged that there is an incredible beauty and almost vulnerability to it. A truly magnificent place that will leave you feeling slightly stuck, between shock and awe.

Our home for the following 3 nights was the Vintage Design Hotel Sax in Prague. A quirky decorated hotel with lovely big rooms, a veranda on the top floor where you can inhale your tobacco and very centrally located to all the splendour the city has on offer.  And the view from our room was delectable.

For dinner we took ourselves to Lokál U Bílé kuželky, a vibey place just around the corner from Charles Bridge. We first mingled (hah!!) with the ‘locals’ outside, sipping on the now standard beer and was lucky enough to grab a table in the cellar. The place is really popular and was packed. We gorged ourselves on traditional cheese curds, fried cheese, cucumber salad (more like a cold soup) and The Husband’s now obligatory, Schnitzel. This time, he was completely out of control and had Pork Leg Schnitzel. We thoroughly enjoyed Lokál and our cheeky waiter made it all the more fun. You can find the place at Míšeňská 12, if you’re in the mood for     a good night out without too much debauchery.

The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn to miss the masses on Charles Bridge. It was blissful strolling across this magnificent bridge and taking in all the sights without being jostled. By 9am we were on the other side of the bridge on our way to the Dancing House, also known as Fred & Ginger.

From there we made our way to the head of Franz Kafka….mmm…could have skipped that, and then had a walkabout on the Old Town Square or if you’re local, Staroměstské náměstí.

Most of the shops that I had on my list either closed down or moved, a bit disappointed on that front. However, I did manage to ensure that the plastic was still in working order at Boheme. The shop is managed by a delightful lady that does not speak a word of English and her equally entertaining side kick, a scruffy Jack Russell. The store stocks both a local Czech designer and a Swedish label. Stunning stuff.  This time, playing charades was immense fun and no gagging was required.

We also stocked up on souvenirs at the Blue Shop, definitely the better of the myriad of souvenir shops.

We finally stopped for lunch and a well-deserved beer at a microbrewery called U Medvídků.  For a starter snack we shared the Bear Claws. Delicious. I had the roasted barley with fried onion as a main dish – also very tasty. even though I was going to pay the bloat-price a little later (but when you’re married for 10 years somethings, although not completely accepted, are tolerated). The Husband really pulled out all the stops and indulged in a plate of Goulash with bread dumplings.

Side note regarding the food until this point:
All the restaurants that I researched and that made it to my list, served traditional food of that specific country or region. What was I thinking? There is no way on earth the locals eat like that every day. Yeah, maybe in winter when is minus-ridiculous-degrees or they’re big burly men doing manual labour. But come on. City dwellers? No way.
Thank goodness we walked our little toochies off every day!

For the remainder of the day we ambled about with no real plan or agenda and rested at the hotel in the afternoon. And guess what? There was wine in the mini-bar!!!! Oh joy!! I immediately quaffed the teensy tiny little bottle. Mother’s milk after all the beer that I had to force down.

We dined just down the road from the hotel that evening. The weather finally was getting cooler and glorious rain serenaded us while we were stuffing our faces, yet again. This time we went more cosmopolitan and ate at an Italian restaurant….although sausage and sauerkraut really does not roll off the tongue that well in Italian. And I had some more wonderful fermented grape juice. Went to bed a happy lady.

Day number two in Prague dawned overcast and blessedly cool. A perfect day for sightseeing. Our first stop was at Prague Castle just up the hill from the hotel. The view from up there over the whole city is breath-taking and I finally understood why Prague is called the city of a thousand spires.

On our way to Petrin Hill, we walked through Nový svět or New World, the most picturesque quarter in Prague. Remember to look up while you’re ambling through this neighbourhood filled with small houses. Indeed very pretty.

After we stopped for a while at the top of Petrin Hill, we took the funicular down and made our way to the Lennon Wall. Imagine The Husband’s surprise when the wall filled with graffiti had nothing to do with Lenin but was named after Lennon. My bad.

The baroque backstreets of Mala Strana is filled with beautiful little shops, traditional pubs and restaurants and includes some fabulous views of the river. Once you’ve ooohed and aaahed enough, try and find Vrtbovská zahrada back towards the main drag. We walked past it twice before we finally spotted the entrance. It is truly a magnificent, baroque garden, completely hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The views from there are gorgeous and it is a popular spot for wedding photography. We gawked to our hearts’ content.

So one of the things that every person and guide book tells you, you must do in Prague, is eat a Pork Knuckle. And like a good little soldier, that is exactly what I had for lunch. Well, I use the word ‘had’ in a very loose way here, of course. The beast definitely got the better of me. How on earth do you eat this monster without looking like a Neanderthal? People literally stopped and stared while I was wrestling my way around the knuckle. I’m probably captured on film by half the western world, chomping like a mad woman my way through this thing. And if that was not enough to scare the living crap out you, the side dish was a truly ginormous portion of potatoes with the standard parsley…I really do not like parsley. To make matters worse, The Husband was delicately eating his two tiny stuffed peppers while I was sweating my way through half a pig.

Needless to say after all that food, I was in no mood for further walking around. Unless somebody could carry my now extra stomach. Plus, Charles Bridge looked like an ant nest with the queen on the move and that amount of people freak me out in a second flat. But it was our last day here and we still wanted to see more and smell more and experience more. Plan B was to jump (read crawl) into a beautiful old car and take a scenic route like proper middle aged tourists through the city. Bliss.

Dinner for our last night in Prague, consisted of Trdelnik (try and say that 3 times) dusted with cinnamon. A messy affair to eat indeed and do not laugh while it’s on its way to your mouth…I managed to sprinkle everything in a 5 meter radius with cinnamon. Trdelnik is a very common pastry that you’ll find on the streets, made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick and then grilled. It basically looks like it sounds: twirley. The toppings normally are cinnamon, sugar or a walnut mix.

We got up really early the next morning and while we sipped our coffee on the upstairs terrace, we listened to the birds on Petrin Hill. Best time of the day for me and a wonderful way to say goodbye to this stunningly beautiful city.

Next stop: Budapest!!!

Love & Light
xx

PS. I post pictures in the next post. Promise.

Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 5: A High-impact Bra and Buckwheat

Good grieve but the road into Poland from Germany is shite! Never in my life have I missed my high-impact sports bra more than on that road. 50km of pure jiggling hell. Sinkplaatpad se moer.

It was however worth the now very saggy mammaries. At a very unassuming road-side stop, just after the road from hell ended, I tasted a pierogi and am now converted for life to these doughy delights. Who knew?
But that’s not all folks! At the very same unassuming road-side stop, they had a buffet that went on for kilometres. From chicken doing the backstroke in oil, to a slightly healthier option of borscht, all the way to a schnitzel with a mound of rice. Again, do not forget that favourite side: the ginormous portion of sauerkraut. And the place was packed with fellow road users, which to me is a good sign that the food can’t be too crap.
Apart from the oily chicken, I had a great lunch of pierogis, a cucumber concoction and some unidentified meat…..the price you pay when you mingle and do not speak or understand one single word of polski.
I love finding these gems in a place that you would normally only stop to have a pee-pee.

This bode well for our time in Krakow.

(I seriously have the attention span of a gnat, the road-issue was completely forgotten until I started writing this!)

I absolutely adored Krakow and if you have not been there, put that on your to-do list immediately. Food was amazing, design is exciting and the city is breathtakingly beautiful. The people that we came into close contact with (in other words, people that you said more to than please, thank you, hello and good-bye), where all delightfully friendly and had a mean sense of humour. My kind of peoples.

We arrived in Krakow in the late afternoon and after dropping our bags at the Andel’s by Vienna House Hotel, we set off to explore the city. First things first: The hotel is very central, staff is exceptionally helpful and rooms, as well as the public areas, are visually pleasing and practical. They also have parking (at a price of course) in the basement.

Our first point of call was Rynek Główny, the main square where you’ll find a whole bunch of performers, overpriced restaurants and horse drawn carriages, manned (womanned???) by attractive women with sultry smiles. And a shit-load of people.

But it was golden hour and photos had to be snapped.

Just around the corner from the square, down a quiet side street, was our eating spot for the evening. Morela is a traditional polish restaurant and their speciality is buckwheat. Like the pierogis, this is something that I’ve heard about or seen on cooking shows but never ever tasted. And like the pierogis, I am converted to this as well. In fact, since we’ve been home, I’ve made buckwheat risotto twice already and it is delicious.
I should do something more adventurous than add mushrooms…maybe try to re-create the dish I had for dinner at the restaurant: Bacon & Prunes Buckwheat. The Husband’s dish looked quite tasty as well – he had Buckwheat with Polish Sausage, Paprika Peppers and Mushroom Sauce. Nomnomnom.

Day two in Krakow dawned slightly cooler – most welcome after the sweltering few days in Berlin. We set off on my planned route with the first stop at Plac Nowy for a double espresso. Plac Nowy is a pretty square in the Kazimierz area, with loads of restaurants and bars. Onwards to Kładka Bernatka Bridge where there are a whole circus act of sculptures swinging in the breeze. Just beautiful.

On our way back to the main square, we were forced to do some shopping. We walked away from Ciuciu with bags and bags of the most precious candies I’ve seen in a long time. All handmade right there in the shop. Next stop was Pasaz 13, an intimate shopping centre with disappointingly few local designers on show. Still, it is an interesting building.

We could not find Galeria Plakatu, a shop that sold communist posters. I don’t know whether they moved or closed down, and nobody that we asked seemed to know what the hell I was on about. Sad.
We did however found some pretty cool T-shirts at Red is Bad. And not only do they loads of anti-red shirts but also anti-blue. They were very proud about the fact that they frown on the whole euro-malarkey. Cool shop with cool people and one I can most definitely recommend if you are there and looking for a souvenir.

Forum Mody is a bit of walk from the main drag but it was a non-negotiable for me. It is a concept shop/gallery that promotes Polish designers – both clothes and homeware. And just again to illustrate how amazeballs these Poles are: when we arrived at the shop (after of course having a bit of a domestic on the way there….it had to happen at some stage), we realized that they were closed. Fear not. The nice man, after he heard that we travel a gazillion miles by air and a final few by foot to come and browse their goods, opened the doors and allowed me to roam free. I could have bought half the shop right there and then. Stunning goodies but a tad oversize for hand luggage on the return trip. Apparently, they do ship internationally and so all is not lost. Yeah!!!

Needles to stay, after all that, including the kiss and make-up part with The Husband, we staggered back to the hotel and collapsed on the terrace, weary to the bone. I was able though, to muster up enough courage to down a few glasses of wine (hello my old friend) and to ward off starvation with a plate of white borscht.

All in all, I LOVED Krakow and will most definitely return one day and spend longer in the city as well as travel a tad more in the country. It is a stunning city filled with great people.

Love & Light
xx

Central European Road Trip 2016 Part 4: Let the wheels roll

After our truly magical lunch in Barneveld (previous post), our road trippin’ started in earnest. We left the magic of the Netherlands behind and entered Germany with gusto.

First overnight stop was pretty practical. Hanover is sort of mid-way from Amsterdam to Berlin. We did not plan any touristy-shenanigans and so, after checking in at Hotel Wagner, ended up sitting outside the hotel, sipping beer (my first…) and watching the world go by.  An extremely civilized intro to my schnitzel dinner with Calvados sauce, nogal. When in Rome and all that jazz.

The hotel was perfect for an overnight stop and the breakfast I though was quite impressive but completely wasted on me. Just can’t do all that food first thing in the morning. Give me coffee and a fag and I’m good to go. Maybe throw a boiled egg into the deal and I’m ready to rumble. I did thought though, that the honeycomb slab dripping golden deliciousness was good enough to smuggle out the door. Messy business.

Onto Berlin, the design-hub of Germany I’ve been told and I had high expectations of the brethren.

We arrived in the late afternoon on a Sunday and it was damn hot. As in unexpected-but-this-is-Europe-not-Africa hot and it’s middle of September for goodness sake.

Checked into our hotel, NH Collection Berlin on Friedrichstrasse, in Mitte. Not bad overall and I did find the interiors (lobby and rooms) full of interesting details of which of course I did not take a picture for future reference….sigh.

My planned walkabout itinerary for the next day was promptly butchered as we realized that I had nothing sight-see-e planned on the day of our arrival. Ooops. None the less, I was able to hush the more controlling part of my psyche. Off we ambled to Potsdammer Platz and made our way back to the hotel-hood, via Tiergarten, to sip on some extremely sweet marguerites, before heading out for dinner.

Side note about Potsdammer Platz: The Kolhoff Tower has apparently the fastest elevator in Europe and the views from the top floors are a must see.

My culinary experience the evening at Sophieneck, included a Beef Knuckle with the obligatory, ginormous helping of sauerkraut, washed down with a very respectable Riesling. I have to admit, the portions did get the best of me….if you’ve never had a beef knuckle, imagine a pork knuckle on steroids. And man is that hunk of meat tough to eat with grace and poise.

Service from the nubile waiter was snappy and the restaurant itself is quite pretty in German terms. We were lucky enough to grab an outside table to enjoy the balmy evening air and to watch the excitement at the hospital down the road.

The next day dawned even more steamy but seeing that we only had one full day to see and experience as much as possible, we loaded up on anti-perspirant and set off along the Spree, destination: East Side Gallery. 6km later through a rather dodgy area of town, sweaty and close to a sense of humour failure, we arrived at a very disappointing ‘gallery’. I have no idea what I was expecting but the last remaining piece of wall, adorned by graffiti, behind a fence, was not ideal for the dramatic, emotionally loaded picture I was planning to take.

We made our way back to Mitte, thanks to Uber (the excuse was that I was getting a blister), for a spot of shopping, only to realize when we got to our first stop, that most shops only open from 10:00am onwards. That’s what happens when you start your day at 6…ten feels like it should be lunch time already!

Time to waste so let’s drown our disappointment in beer! Okay and we did have something to eat to look slightly more civilized.

Shopping take 2.

Both the Happy Shop and The Store on Torstrasse was either permanently closed or have moved to an undisclosed location. We could not find either one.

We did manage to find Adddress, a shop that stocks local fashion. After trying on all the clothes and shoes in the entire store, I finally bought something. But I must be honest though, I really battled to find an item that appealed to me…that something special or an interesting detail. Hopefully, the very pretty young lady that ran around like a blue arsed fly, trying to find something that would make me happy, earns commission.

Next stop was Konk, also a local fashion store, tucked away on a very pretty side street called Kleine Hamburger Strasse. Now they had extremely interesting stuff! I can definitely recommend, when you are in Berlin and you want to support local design, to pop in there for clothes and jewellery.

On our way back to hotel, we detoured via the Reichstag and swinged by the Brandenburger Tor. Entrance to the Reichstag is free, if you want to view the city from under the glass roof. We didn’t. ‘Cause sometimes you are tired and you want to get back to hotel and take your shoes off and sip a beverage and de-people yourself. There.

We ended the day at a restaurant called Leon, just a hop, skip and a half-hearted jump from the hotel. Nothing like a bratwurst to end off a sightseeing/shopping expedition in Berlin. Don’t forget the beer to avoid dehydration.

I was expecting more from Berlin design-wise and was hoping that the research I did prior to our visit, was enough off the beaten track to sniff out fabulous design or architecture and that I would leave the city, filled with inspiration. Maybe I just did not look in the right places to find innovative design?

The city’s history though is interesting and I did appreciate the subtle differences between what was and what is now.

Love & Light
xx

An elixir to beat the dimples: Coffee

My most golden moment is first thing in the morning, when I have my lukewarm glass of water and freshly squeezed lemon juice. It is a fleeting self-congratulating moment and even though I have the best intentions and promise myself that I will be consuming only alkaline food & drink every single morning, I promptly follow that glass of water with a cup of coffee. Every. Single. Day. So much for good intentions.

My name is Lani and I am a coffee addict. And no, I don’t drink countless cups of coffee everyday (two cups are my maximum) but there is no way that I can say no to that morning brew. And that is addictive behaviour, right?

So be it.

A few weeks ago, I bought a new brand of coffee online (my favourite way of shopping) and after the current beans in the machine ran out, it was a good time to test drive Black Insomnia. Now the name should have given me plenty of warning but I thought that my caffeine tolerance was more than enough, seeing that I have my regular dose at least once a day.

Boy. Was I wrong.

The heart palpitations and shaking finally stopped just before lunch after having ONE cup at 7 o’clock that morning. I think they should change the name to ‘ritteltits.

Needless to say, that was my first and last cup…just too shit-scared. I was thinking though, that if the caffeine made my heart go pitter-patter at the speed of, well, Speed, then it can only do marvellous things for my non-existent circulation. The plan is to grind the buggery-beans and scrub my dimply thighs and just maybe, the cellulite will be scared off into oblivion.

post-pics1

If you feel brave, head over to Black Insomnia‘s site and spoil yourself with their extremely potent brew. They also have other pretty cool stuff – and I love that logo! Me personally, am sticking to my current favourite Lavazza and will get my rocks off in some other way.

Respect!

Love & Light
xx