A perfect dinner

‘As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.’

-Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast 

This is the quote that my brother hooked me with before taking me to my first proper eating oysters experience, at Umarfisch Restaurant in Naschmarkt, Wien. I was actually curious about these love it or hate it pieces of salt-water bivalve mollusks, because I had tried some in past,  ate them fast and without even adding lemon, and it didn’t feel quite right.  Some say that the first time it is better to try oysters raw, without any condiments, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea. So, at Umarfisch I did it by the book, by my brother’s book, following what he was doing, for he is passionate about oysters and good food in general.

Here’s what I say, when you try oysters for the first time, pour some Tabasco sauce in the oyster, some cocktail sauce, lemon, mix’em up and only after this, sip the meat from its shell. Then close your eyes and enjoy the aftertaste and feeling. Invigorating, divine, just like Hemingway said!

I mean the rest of the meal was yummy too, the baked potatoes, the fresh fish, even the lovely presentation of the plates, but the oysters were something else. It made my forehead stretch and lighten up. I think I even lost a couple of wrinkles. It was solar! Oysters are actually known to bring happiness.

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So, this experience was happening in November, last year.

End of March (small note, oysters are best eaten in months containing letter R, like September to December and January to April), I visited my brother  again, he has been living in Wien for three years now, and we decided to keep the tradition and go for oysters once more, this time adding the company of his lovely wife and choosing a different restaurant, Fischvierterl , as well in Naschmarkt Wien (btw I really love this market, don’t miss it if you’re visiting the city!).

In comparison to Umarfisch which had a Scandinavian colder feel to it, design and atmosphere wise, Fishviertrl felt more cosy, like a family owned Italian restaurant, maybe because of its more classic design, carnations adorned the table, which I really found to be an elegant touch, or because the fact that Fishviertrl is also family owned. As well, the Italian feel could have come from the fast-talking, funny and loud waiter that made things even more pleasing. Anyways, I really liked both these restaurants and I would recommend them for a nice dinner in Vienna.

But getting back to oysters, they came as the same wonderful surprise as the previous time I had them. We ordered a bottle of Austrian white wine to wash them down, like old Hemingway said and it was memorable all over again.

 

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I will say no more, but when you try oysters for the first time, and anything else for that matter, make it right, enjoy it, get the best of the experience.  And it will be rewarding.

Thank you, Alex and Cip for your wonderful company and of course, for feeding me so well! 😉 Love you guys!

 

 

Back to the roots

Well well everybody, last time I posted I was in beautiful Ireland, taking six sabbatical months to chill and try new things. And what a wonderful time I had in fairyland! I recommend to all a holiday to Ireland, if only just to take a walk around their wild parks and enjoy the wonderful light that pours from the forever changing skies.

For the moment, I am quite happy to be back in Romania and I’m going to show you some photos from my first trip to Iasi county, to be more specific, from a small village near Iasi, called Madarjesti, in the north-east of Romania. That was back in October but I think it’s never too late to tell a good story.

And this is the story of an ancient lady working in the middle of a heap of corn cobs, doing the same thing she learned to do since she was just a child, keeping her household with the constancy and rhythm of a mantra, irrespective of everything else happening around the world. The story of a time capsule where seasons pass, women do their cooking and cleaning and no force in the world is bigger than the sense of duty,  of routine, of the old ways dug deep into the lives of locals. It’s like a prayer that never ceases to lose its strength.

This story is also about pieces of pita bread cooked in the oven and the little birds made of dough by a grandma with an artistic sense. Why make simple dough when you can make a bird shape, and that proves to me one more time that love of beauty needs no education, no cultural background, it is just there in people’s hearts, a seed to be grown. This same grandma also asked me to search Facebook to look for photos of her and other local ladies that gather once in two weeks at a Daycare Centre for elders in Baltati, a village close by Madarjesti, to make handmade garments and chat and celebrate their birthdays. The vest I am wearing in the photo below is handmade by her!

What else is in this story from Madarjesti? A walk in the open field, at sunset, to gather mushrooms, everyone spread around hunting for the little white treasures that we brought home and cooked. And they tasted like the best Michelin stars food!

Also, I want to mention the beautiful colored houses, blue and green and most of them made from clay. They are small but cozy and beautifully adorned with carpets made by hand, embroidered towels, holy icons and family photos.

Hope the photos below speak a bit more about this ancient story that is life in the Romanian village.

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The magic of Tullynally castle

In Ireland, visiting a castle is not a big deal. It’s almost like everyone here has a castle or a medieval ruin in their back garden. And most of those castles come from the times of the Anglo-Norman invasions. In very few words, the invaders had to protect against the Irish rebels so they build castles and fortresses and so left a great heritage to modern Ireland. Well, it’s the least they could do.

Now, many of the castles that are still standing are privately owned but nevertheless, opened for the public to visit. Such a castle is Tullynally castle, in Castlepollard, County Westmeath, with its lovely gardens and Tearooms.

„The present owner of Tullynally, Thomas Pakenham inherited the estate in 1961 at the death of his uncle, the 6th Earl of Longford. Thomas, after producing three large history books (The Year of Liberty, The Boer War and The Scramble for Africa – all still in print) turned to writing about trees – starting with Meetings with Remarkable Trees in 1993 – and has become a passionate gardener. In recent years, he has brought back seeds from plant hunting trips to China, Tibet, and Sikkim in Northern India. Most of his planting has been in the Forest Walk, in the gardens of the castle. His most recently planting has been a collection of rare magnolias at the far end of the Upper Lake.”

Besides the magnolias and rare trees, in the wonderfully kept Tullynally gardens, there are also apple trees that stretch along the walls, greenhouses with weird looking flowers, llamas running in their own private yard, lakes and bridges and charming wooden houses.

And after a lovely stroll on the Forest walk and the Lake walk, you can visit as well the inside of the castle and have tea or a glass of wine, in the Tearooms.

But I will tell you more about all of this, in pictures:

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One of the entrances in the castle
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What used to be the stables of the castle is now turned into lovely designed tearooms!
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Hahahaa. Good advice.
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The Victorian washing room. Now the ladies back then really knew what hard work meant!
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„If in the Georgian era the kitchen used to be in the basement, in the Victorian epoque, the servants had this beautiful kitchen to work in, with a garden view”, the castle guide told us.
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Another part of the Tearooms.
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Outside the Tearooms, in the backyard of the castle, having Latte and Lemon Meringue pie.
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I found these carvings on trees very creative and great to capture kids’ imagination.
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The black sky over a building claimed by nature.
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A place to hide from the rain.
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How cool is this fountain covered in moss and surrounded by vegetation?
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Never have I seen an apple tree growing on a wall.
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Dalai Llama!
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Nicely build greenhouse.
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I don’t know what creatures those are but they look like smth I’d like to have as a home pet.
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A little Buddha, meditating in the forest.
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Big tree, small man, and house.
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Look at the shamrock shadow the sun makes on the wall!
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The grote and it’s beautiful interior architecture.
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A Tibetan inspired place.
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The biggest lilies I have ever seen!

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The railway kitchen

Everybody, I have a new #discoveringireland experience that I want to share with you!

It’s called The Railway kitchen and it’s in the town of Tuam, in County Galway. If ever visiting the surroundings do make sure to drop by, order an Irish breakfast or just a cup of tea and have a chat with the two lovely grannies that are holding the place together. They will tell you some nice stories about the Kitchen if you ask.

Apparently, this cozy little restaurant was opened 15 years ago, when the railway went out of order, but the building itself is from 1875!  The restaurant has a rural, charming allure and the Irish menu is nothing fancy, but nevertheless, heartwarming. A lot of locals, simple, working people, come here to eat and chat with the ladies that serve, giving the place that familiar feel of small communities.

I really enjoyed the old school drapes and lace at the windows and the flowery set up on tables reminded me of the grandma’s house. And a nice touch was the tables made to look like seats from an Orient Express train!

But here are some pics for you:

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Another beautiful example of not letting a place die but rather transforming it into something for the people to enjoy.

Why not try something like this in your home town too! 😉

 

 

The „Mediterranean” Ireland

Last weekend I arrived in Galway for the first time, for the International Arts&Music festival. I didn’t get to see much of the festival as we were keen on just walking around the town and taking in the energy and some pints of beer, while at it.

But the festival is not the subject of this post, the surprising surroundings of Galway are. First of all, for this two days journey, we decided to camp and we set up the tent in Salthill Caravan Bay, a lovely spot for camping, clean and peaceful, situated on the northern inner shore of Galway Bay. From there to Galway we had to walk for about 40 minutes on the Salthill Promenade, a very relaxing walk along the coast and the first hint that Ireland has nice spots for swimming and fun!

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View from Salthill Caravan Bay
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A swimming party we ran into, on the Salthill Promenade.

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After leaving Galway and Salthill we decided to discover some other beaches around and so we reached Dog’s Bay. Prepare to be amazed:

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Greece, Italy, Turkey? No, still Ireland!

Meet the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, a bit cold but still you can take a bath, especially on a lovely weather like we had in the weekend. Dog’s Bay didn’t have a beach bar but we can’t have it all, can we.

And finally, on our way to Dog’s Bay we passed by change, through Roundstone village, prepare to be amazed again:

 

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„The village of Roundstone lies on the western arm of Bertraghboy Bay in Connemara, Co. Galway, 48 miles (77km) north-west of Galway city. This Connemara village is beautifully set on one of the most spectacular coastal drives in Ireland overlooking the Atlantic at the foot of Errisbeg Mountain. ”

So this is my newest #discoveringireland experience, a face of Ireland that not only I never would have guessed but that has made me fall in love a bit more with this ever-surprising country.

 

 

The loveliest little railway trip

There are many wonderful and exciting stories fueled by trips on the railway, from Orient Express to Darjeeling limited (see the movie),  but this here post is about a different railway trip, short, charming and family friendly, called Waterford Suir Valley, in Ireland.

The train station in the discussion is located just outside the village of Kilmeaden, 15 min car drive from Waterford city. Once you get there you’ll see a restored railway carriage that serves as the ticket office and shop. You buy your ticket and then get on board of a period, partially open, carriage, that goes only 15 km per hour along the picturesque banks of the River Suir. On the way you get a glimpse of the world-famous Mount Congreve Gardens and my favorite part, you get to make a wish while passing through The magic wood. They say fairies live here (small wooden houses similar to birds houses have been build in trees to prove it) and apparently the fairies will fulfill your wish if you are pure at heart! Anyways, this is an area rich in history as well as stories and is only accessible by train.

And here are some photos:

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