Category Archives: Travel

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.

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Café Gerbeaud and the Best Desserts in Budapest

Café Gerbeaud

Café Gerbeaud

It’s possible to spend time in Budapest without visiting Café Gerbeaud, but why on earth would you do a silly thing like that? The café, dominating Vörösmarty Square in the heart of the city, is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. Long known as one of the great coffee houses of Europe, Café Gerbeaud has survived two world wars and a dismal 50-year period of nationalization. After the collapse of Communism in the 1990s, it was purchased by a German businessman and, like Fashion Street a few blocks away, beautifully restored to its former glory. There’s no better place in Budapest to enjoy fabulous desserts in a truly elegant setting.

Here’s what I ordered:

Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae

Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae

The menu describes this Caramel and Dried Plum Sundae as “Two scoops of vanilla ice cream, two scoops of caramel ice cream, dried plum ragout, caramelized hazelnut pieces, walnut croquant, whipped cream, caramel bon-bon, and a walnut crisp”, which left me unsure about the exact dfference between a “walnut croquant” and a “walnut crisp”. That uncertainty didn’t prevent me from savouring every delicious spoonful of this unforgettable sundae.


Café Gerbeaud Interiors
Images Found on the Web

Look Closer

No, it’s not a shoddy Photoshop job. It’s intentional, and you’ve got to admire its effectiveness.

Variations of this ad have shown up in DC Metro stations over the past month or so. I suspect that no more than one person in a hundred really looks at subway advertisements, let alone remembers them five minutes later. This one, though, gets noted and reposted.

The image, combined with the emphasized and unsubtle “DTF” text* make it memorable.


*If you don’t know what  “DTF” means, look it up in the Urban Dictionary.

Through the Looking Glass — Kevin Parry Dazzles, Again

Best watched fullscreen


I posted an earlier mind-bending video by the amazingly creative Kevin Parry last year.

Parry, who accurately identifies himself as a “Stop-Motion Animator + Video Wizard”, recently returned to his native Toronto after working on Laika Entertainment’s Kubo and the Two Strings and The Boxtrolls in Portland, Oregon.

He went the long way, traveling 5000 miles in three weeks. You can follow along with this video of the “Portland to Portland (Teleporting Across America)” tour, as he tries to get that one perfect tourist picture.

Doesn’t he seem like someone who would be fun to hang out with?

One final video:

“No One Does Feasting Like the Tudors” — Discover Henry VIII’s Kitchens

This summer, Hampton Court Palace is inviting the public to travel back to 1538, when the Palace hosted 800 courtiers and ambassadors celebrating the birth of Edward, Henry’s son and heir.  Those guests had to be fed, and it was up to the 200 cooks and dining staff to make it happen.

“Feeding the court was a complex business all done without modern conveniences as 1.3 million logs burned in the hellish fires every year. From boiling cauldrons to roasting spits, join the day-to-day grind of Henry’s cooks as you pass through this labyrinth of kitchen spaces.”

The palace’s website promises—or maybe warns—there is even a chance to lend a hand turning the spit!

Along the way, you’ll meet kitchen staff like John Edlyn the purveyor, William Chester the yeoman butcher, and John Dale the master cook, presumably played by actors, since they’ve all been dead for 400 years, although the website is a little vague about that.

If you time things right, Hampton Court is an easy 45-minute trip by Tube and train from central London. It’s a delightful place to spend a day, and there’s always something special happening on the grounds. Here are my notes from a 2015 visit.


You might want to combine your kitchen visit with the Hampton Court Palace Food Festival, which runs from 25 August 2018 through 27 August 2018. The Festival, in the East Front Gardens of the Palace, features more than 100 artisan producers and companies, and offers “everything from oysters to sausages, and brownies to crepes.”

Prague, Beautiful Prague

This is a live stream from Prague, provided by a company called CamStreamer. The Czech Republic is six hours ahead of US East Coast time, so the stream is best viewed between late night and early afternoon in the East. When it’s dark in Prague, the images are murky and uninteresting.


If I could live anywhere in the world, Prague would be near the top of the list. The great disqualifier, for me, would be my inability to learn the difficult Czech language this late in life. While English is the de facto common language in much of Europe, it’s far from universal.

For a certain kind of American, Prague in the 1990s was what Paris was in the 1920s, or what San Francisco was in the 1960s—the Red Hot Center, the Happening city, a culturally rich environment with a thriving creative class, free from the conformist restraints of buttoned-up America. It didn’t hurt that the cost of living was a fraction of what it was in the States.

In the video stream, the camera pans from the Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, past the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral, to the Strahov monastery and back. Walking across the ethereal, haunting Charles Bridge in the evening is one of those things that everyone should do before they die. It’s magical.


The background music is “Vltava”, the tone poem that serves as the second movement of Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast, which is best known in English as My Country. The Bedřich Smetana Museum is one of the endpoints of the video stream.

Since 1952, the Prague Spring International Music Festival has opened on 12 May, the anniversary of Smetana’s death. The opening concert has always been a performance of Má vlast.

Here’s the 2018 concert: