Category Archives: Events

Another Day, Another Christmas Market

The most popular Christmas Market in Budapest is on Vörösmarty Square, right in front of Café Gerbeaud. It’s one of my favourites—I’ve been there more than a dozen times, by day and by night. Day visits are a joy, and nights are even better.

Repeat visits are easy, since the market is open every day from early November through New Year’s Day, usually from 10 AM – 9 PM.

Like most Christmas Markets, this one has booths selling anything and everything even vaguely related to the holidays, or to winter in general, or to the seasonal decoration of houses, preferable in shades of red and green. Where it really excels, though, is in the quality and variety of its food offerings.

If you aren’t currently in Budapest, Look on these Booths, ye Hungry, and despair!*

*Shelley wrote “Ozymandias” in 1818, so this year is its 200th anniversary. My trivia fact du jour.


The 2018 British Christmas Ads: Sainsbury’s “The Big Night”

In the same way that American advertizers screen some of their most creative (and expensive) ads during the Super Bowl, British department stores and supermarkets go all out on television advertizing at Christmastime. While this year’s crop isn’t as memorable as some of the ads in recent years—that 2014 John Lewis Penquin ad!—this one stands out.

It’s this year’s ad from Sainsbury’s, which is one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains. The ad is an early favourite for the Best Christmas Ad of 2018.

Full screen recommended.

The song, btw, is the New Radicals’  “You Get What You Give”.

Christmas Market at the Vienna Rathaus

Here are some pictures from the Christmas Market in front of Vienna’s Rathaus, or “Townhall”. You can find smaller markets in almost every public space in the old city, but this one is probably the most famous and popular.

I wonder why Christmas Markets, so popular throughout Europe, have never really caught on in the US. There are a scattering of them here, especially in places with large German-American communities, but nothing on the scale of what you’d find in Germany and Eastern Europe.

Despite the lights and the music and the food and the mulled wine, visiting one of these markets always leaves me a little sad.

I’m not a Christmas person, but my mother was. She started decorating for the holidays about the same time that the leaves in Pennsylvania began to change colour, and didn’t stop until every room looked like a Santa’s workshop.

I think of her whenever I walk through a Christmas Market like this.

She would have loved it.

Lunch at Air Canada’s Poutinerie — 13 November 2018



Well, this was a nice little surprise. Not my usual lunch spot, but irresistible. And fun, despite the hour-long, around-the-block, prime-time wait to get in.*

To promote Air Canada’s connections to more than 200 destinations through Washington’s airports, the company has opened a one-week-only pop-up Poutinerie near Dupont Circle, less than two blocks from where I live. Servings are a low $5, with proceeds going to Martha’s Table, a local non-profit.

Poutine is Canada’s contribution to the world of fast food. Classic poutine consists of French fries covered with cheese curds and brown gravy.

For the pop-up, Air Canada is offering not just the traditional poutine, but variations designed to be reminiscent of some of the cities that the airline serves.

Full Poutinerie Menu
Poutine $5/Drinks $4

Montreal’s Classic (GF) | Hand-cut fries, traditional cheese curds, gravy
Toronto’s The Six (GF) | Sweet potato fries, pork belly, cheese curds, whole grain maple mustard, fresh herb confetti
São Paulo’s Sweet Chimi-Churrasco (GF) | Sweet potato fries, grilled carne asada, green chimichurri, queso blanco
Rome’s Eternal City Eggplant (Vegetarian, GF) | Garlic fries, Napoletana sauce, mozzarella cheese, eggplant ragu, basil chiffonade
Paris’ Brasserie-Born Braised Beef (GF) | Hand-cut fries, braised beef, mushrooms, horseradish cream
London’s Corner Pub Fish & Chips | Malt vinegar dusted chips, crispy fried cod, dill & caper tartar gravy
Seoul’s Twice the Spice Kimchi (Vegan) | Hand-cut fries, kimchi, kohlrabi Asian pear relish, sriracha gravy, cilantro
Mumbai’s Baked & Buttered (GF) | Hand-cut fries, tender butter chicken, grated paneer cheese, diced tomatoes, fresh herbs
Shanghai’s Neon Street BBQ | Shoestring fries, Asian BBQ pulled pork, hoisin gravy, sesame seeds, scallions, vegetable slaw
Dubai’s Late Night Shawarma (GF) | Shoestring fries, chicken shawarma, cucumber & tomato salad, tzatziki-garlic gravy

I stopped by the Poutinerie during the off-hours, and tried the London’s Corner Pub Fish & Chips, because England. It was only later that I discovered that The Washingtonian had “Ranked Every Poutine at Air Canada’s Pop-Up Poutinerie”, and given my choice a lowly single Drake rating…


…on a zero-to-five Drake scale.

I’m going back to try some of the more exotic dishes.

*But it was a polite, friendly line. I mean, it was Canadian, for gosh sake.

Burning Man at the Renwick (2)

My earlier post about Burning Man at the Renwick took a look at the first floor of the museum and focused on artifacts. That part of the exhibition has now closed. The second floor, which will be open until 21 January 2019, is about environments.

These, uh, “things” are identified as “steel polyhedral sculptures” that “generate tension between hard geometric surfaces and soft interior illumination, promoting a sense of contemplation and awe of the inherent beauty of universal forms.”

(I made a note of the name and the description, because that’s the kind of stuff that comes up a lot in casual conversations.)

What fascinated me was the use of light and the everchanging colours. One of the “steel polyhedral sculptures” was large enough to hold several people inside.

The Grand Salon

The largest room in the Renwick is called the Grand Salon, and until the building’s most recent renovation, that was a perfectly descriptive name—it was heavy on the damask, and the walls were full of (mainly) 19th- and early 20th-century paintings by American artists.

That’s all gone now. For the Burning Man exhibition, the space was given over to David Best, the designer of many of the Burning Man “temples”.

The structure in the above picture hangs from the room’s ceiling. The photograph below, from the Renwick’s website, is a look at the full room.

At Burning Man in Nevada, these temples are among the things burned at the end of the festival.  That won’t happen to this one. The Renwick says it will be “on view indefinitely.”

David Best Temple, 2018, Rernwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt

David Best Temple, 2018, Renwick Gallery, photo by Ron Blunt

The Mushroom Room

Oh, this was fun!

The giant “mushrooms” changed colour and seemed to breathe and grow when someone activated them by standing of the red-circled control panel on the floor.

The “Before I Die” Room

Last stop before the exit.

The Renwick set up a room, painted black and stocked with of coloured chalk, at the end of the Burning Man exhibition. Visitors were invited to write or draw a message about what they hope to see or do before they die.

Love, travel, drugs, self-fulfillment, and the future of Donald Trump were frequently mentioned.

The Burning Man exhibition has been wildly popular. Great show!