This café was gorgeous. The sconces are beeswax, you guys. Can I just move in?
That es-zett makes me want to cry. It's so good. HRRRRNG.
I went to Berlin. Finally!
Well, this is a small misleading statement, for many years ago I drove eight hours straight to visit Berlin with a girlfriend. To be kind, this friend was not interested in walking for hours around a new city, and we spent the majority of our time in the car, circling the streets trying to find a Dunkin' Donuts she had spotted out the window. We never found it, I got annoyed, and I drove home another 8 hours (furious, and at 220kmh). That was my Berlin experience.
Fast forward ten years or so, and here I was, back in town. On foot, and meeting up with a lovely new friend I met, wonderfully, by writing this blog. Not only is she a lot like me (to the point of eeriness), but she is also wonderfully creative and a good sounding board for ideas and collaborations- many of which I hope we'll do in the very near future. But enough about work- let's talk about the coffee. GOOD. Let's talk about the Pho I ate at the colourfully-stooled (not in the poop sense, ew) restaurant pictured a few photos above. DELICIOUS. Let's talk about the peanut-butter whoopie pie thingie I had at a random café. AMAZING. Let's talk about how charming Prenzlauer Berg is, with its wide streets and cute shops and many places to eat and drink and people watch. SO CHARMING THAT I WANT TO MOVE THERE NOW.
Seriously, I really liked it. To the point that I am looking at real estate and considering how far my savings would stretch. Did I mention I speak German? How wonderful to sit somewhere and order, with confidence, what I wanted. Or read the menu and not wonder if what was coming had hooves or not. And read signs! And eavesdrop when people watching! Refreshing!
It was just a short weekend trip (coincidentally the exact weekend the attacks occurred, which was rather good timing, I think, though I was worried a bit about flying Air France back into Paris) and I laughed, walked, snapped a few photos, ate a lot, and enjoyed a new town. I tore up the German chocolate in the minibar in my hotel too. And the NicNacs. I forgot about those things. God bless Germany.
I've spent the past three months scuttling from café to café to fill some of the more...draggy days. People watching while sitting outside of an establishment with a hot cup of coffee is one of my favourite things to do, though, so I'm not complaining. Since the attacks though, I feel a difference. People are a little more tense. More alert. If a scooter comes roaring loudly down the road, or a car revs a little loudly, there is a collective tensing, palpable. It makes me sad. But it will not make me sit inside and hide.
I haven't felt much like posting here. A lot of it is because I have been glued, wide-eyed, to the news for the past few days. Another bit is my lack of interest or desire to blog. I feel a bit of a slump at the moment. It could be the Novermber doldrums. It could be my weird familial situation (8 months since I've seen Ban, sitting talking to Colin most days like a weird cat lady hermit). It could be the world is a bit of a mess at the moment, and blogging feels absolutely irrelevant.
I don't have much to say about the attacks on Paris (apart from thank you to everyone who checked in with me, worried- that was very sweet) but that this world was and is and will continue to be a mess, and unfortunately it doesn't look like that will ever change. It's fatalistic, perhaps, but as long as humans are humans, well, we so dearly love to kill each other, don't we?
On a more positive note, I recently had the supreme joy to see Joanna Newsom live in the Salle Gaveau, touring after the release of her new album, Divers. If you don't have it, get it. Her voice has matured so wonderfully, and her music (now there are drums!) is deep and rich and epic in scope and tale, and FUCKING HELL I had no idea what a consummate musician she really was until I saw her, a slight thing, DOMINATE an enormous harp poly-rhythmically while singing 100+lines of undulating, weird time-signatured lyrics, and then nimbly hopping over to the piano or electric keyboard to do the same on those. With just three other people (one her brother, Pete) on stage, she recreated her music simply and beautifully, and I am not ashamed to say I was super emotional and welled up several times- especially when she ended the show with Time, As a Symptom- one of my favourites from the new release. Also her dress was so fucking cute. As she is. Charming, warm, emanating kindness- she spoke a little French to the audience and when we all stood up and clapped and wouldn't stop, she said demurely, "Vous etes trop gentil.". A single voice from the balcony called back "Vous etes trop PARFAIT!"
She is. Absolutely.
Remember how I went on and on about how Colin was the PERFECT cat? Yeah well, it seems that not only has his ass expanded- so has his attitude. (Cattitude? Thanks Miranda July.) Little. Asshole. You can see it in that second-to-last photo. That's a shitty little face.
Ok I know he looks like a double chocolate muffin, and yes, he is as soft as velvet. And he never really got his puberty voice change, so he still mews like a little baby, but GOD DAMN. When he gets the "fever" (or whatever you call that weird cat behaviour of FREAKING OUT for no reason) he is a terror. He'll jump up your thigh to get your attention. If you're on the phone (say, to the bank) he'll SCREAM like you have your foot on his neck. If you try to make the bed he is there, ripping your hands off with his razor claws (HOW ARE THEY SO SHARP I TRIM THEM ALL THE TIME) in "beddy-makey-game" mode. He's absolutely bonkers. The only way to appease him is to throw Stink Pillow to him and back slowly out of the room while he makes out with it. Stink Pillow being the valerian-infused pouch he licks like a long-lost lover whenever you show it to him. Gross, get a room you two.
That said, he's still the fattest, fluffiest, cutest, weirdest little asshole, and I like that he has his own "distinct" (PC way of saying batshit crazy) personality. And I certainly hope he never gets a bass meow. I love his weird, strained, tiny little squeaks. Just not inches from my face at 4am when he decides he's ready for his morning meal. Ha!
Holy crap, it's not a travel photo barrage? You're so very welcome, faithful reader! Er, if any of you managed to slog through the over-share of my America trip and thought it worth sticking around.
If you did, you get a treat- literally! This is almond plum cake. You should make it and then try to not be the happiest stomach wiggler in the world. When I was in Denver (there she goes again) I went a little nuts in Sur Le Table and bought a lot of julienne peelers and weird mashers and other kitchen gadgetry which, upon reflection, all could have probably been done with one knife. Anyway because I literally funded their CEO's summer holidays , I was offered a free subscription to Bon Appetit magazine. Because I don't have enough trouble with impulse-cooking unhealthy things and then feeling crushing guilt for having eaten what the magazine describes as "a generous 6 servings". Thanks.
Anyway not only do I get a glossy magazine of food porn every month, I also get regular (like, maybe a little too regular? Back off, Bon App, you're like a feeder boyfriend) emails with additional recipes. Which is havoc for my waistline, but, well, you only live once, so I wasn't about to pass the chance to try a cake I've never tried before. Plus it has fruit. So it's healthy. 5-a-day and all that bullshit.
The cake turned out wonderfully. I ate nearly all of it before I had to Miranda it. Yes, I put the rest in the bin and squirted dish soap on it so I wouldn't dig it back out later. DON'T JUDGE ME.
If you're keen to try this tempting (aka you'll-have-to-use-aversive-methods-to-make-sure-you-don't-fish-it-out-of-a-cat-foody-bin tempting) recipe, it can be found here.
Kids and squids, that is IS for my Colorado-America-travel photos. Thank fuck, right? Now I can get back to Colin and cake and interior shots and Paris (the only reason anyone trips across my blog after Googling for a good place to get a latte macchiato in town).
I thought I'd end with my favourite photos from the time in America, which are not beautiful nature photos or snowy landscapes- rather the gaudy, neon-lit wonder that is the Penny Arcade. I do find photos of humans and human-made things (especially old, colourful, and nostalgic crap) to be my favourite subject matter. You know that liquor store is more visually stimulating than the waterfalls in the previous post. And not even just because inside are treats and snacks, and well, booze. It just is.
The Penny Arcade is this wonderful hodge-podge place in Manitou Springs of old carnival games, Ms. Pac Man machines, rubber duck shooting, and old-ass Skittles in crusty little vending machines. And Skee Ball. How is throwing a ball into numbered rings so terribly addictive? I think I spent about twenty dollars, and gratified by the tickets shooting out of the machine, spent another ten on quarters to reach 300 tickets. I took them to the prize counter to claim my big win. What would it be? A teddy bear bigger than me? A remote controlled drone that holds your iPhone for awesome aerial video? A new scooter?
It was a kazoo. A fucking kazoo.
300 tickets, a hour of precision throwing, and that's all I was able to get from behind the glass counter. I was robbed. But I had a great time, though. And honked the hell out of that thing the whole drive home.
Are you guys as sick of travel photos as I am of posting them?
Seriously. I know.
So there's this place near my parents' house called 7 Falls and it is seven waterfalls dropping down a cliff. That's it. That's all I have to say about it. It was pretty. It started to pour halfway through climbing up the million steps to the top. Then it stopped and was glorious and muggy and misty. Then I had a gin and tonic in the bar.
Tucked rather incongruously at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains lie the appropriately-named Great Sand Dunes. If you've ever wanted to be driving through the mountains and then pretend you're suddenly in the Sahara, this is the place to do it. It's nuts! Though I'm no geology expert, from what I could make out from the signs the sand is erosion from the surrounding mountains that was blown into place over millions of years to make this fine, baby powder-soft dune field. Can you imagine all the required elements that had to align for this to occur right here? Nature astounds me. I like to shove my feet it in. BUT CAUTION- this sand gets to about 140 degrees during the day (remember, I told you about the death sun of Colorado) and you will burn your feet. I can attest to that, because like a jackass I wanted to feel the sand on my toes. That lasted about 14 seconds before I was furiously digging down to the cooler sand with my feet like a deranged mole and yipping high-pitchedly to THROW MY SHOES! THROW MY SHOES! since they were tied to my friend's backpack. Worth it.
The dunes extend for miles, and I'm not going to pretend I climbed them all because anybody who has ever walked on a beach knows how shitty walking on sand is. Then make the sand, like, a 90-degree incline, and then up the temperature to rubber-sole melting and well, you sort of high-tail it to the closest highest one, look around, and then whinge the whole way down that you wish you had a gin and tonic. BUT STILL. So pretty. There is even a little creek that conveniently runs at the foot of the dunes, so you can hear the pleasing hissssssss of your scalded feet when you descend. The photo of the young girl in the stripes was doing just that, and I watched her quietly singing to herself and kicking the sand. She was with a group of adolescents who were screaming and mock-fighting/flirting ("QUAT AT, DERAK, STAP KACKING SAND AT MY FICE"- why do American female youths switch vowels like this and then force their voices through their nasal cavities to make sure it's the MOST ANNOYING SOUND IN THE WORLD?) and seemed to want nothing to do with them. Obviously I instantly liked her. Plus she was wearing stripes- always a sign of consummate good taste, I find. I wanted to tell her that although the boys are all trying to throw the skinny, pretty girls into the wet sand now, when you're all older and you've used your imagination and keen observational skills to begin some tech start-up that is bought for billions by Google, and those skinny girls have 4 children from 4 different men and sound like they've smoked a million cigarettes as they scream at their children to STOP CLIMBING ON THE WALMART SHELVES, you'll remember feeling alone at the sand dunes and remember how sad you were but realise that it couldn't have been any other way, because it's what made you YOU, and ultimately who wants wet sand down their swimsuit bottom anyway? So yes. Throat clear.
If you're keen to see these beauties (and you should be because apart from flying very, very far it is not easy to see real soft, sandy, proper sand dunes in this world), they are in the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, just Southwest of Pueblo, Colorado. Don't you dare try to use your GPS to get there though. Apparently it leads you somewhere completely different. Also, this is the place in the 60's where the first inside-out bovine was found and attributed to "alien activity". This is an extra terrestrial hot spot, apparently. So that's pretty fucking rad, too, right? I know!
Just a little drive through the mountains from Denver is the charming little town of Georgetown. A little main street lined with brick and wooden "pioneery" buildings is the main attraction, and the most adoreable chocolate-box houses dot the green lawns throughout the town. Just behind those rise the mountains- as close as they can be to what was once a bustling little mining town.
As I ambled along the streets, I stopped in a sweets shop to buy some fudge (aromatically still made by hand by the people behind a long, old-fashioned glass counter), and sat and watched the people pass. Cowboys, families, an older British couple- it was lovely to sit on a bench in the middle of America in the warm sun, peoplewatchiing.
I continued my perambulation and stuck my lens in dusty old windows, and at people that took my interest. I came across a hotel- named The Hotel de Paris, and walked down a narrow side alley that looked rather fascinating. I ended up behind the hotel, one of the grandest in the West at its peak, and was delighted to find...INFORMATION SIGNS! You guys, I love when I want to know about a place, and someone has placed signage (with old-timey photos, swoon!) to do precisely that.
It turns out that this hotel was owned and nearly solo-operated by a mysterious French man who went by the name of Louis Dupuy. He, along with a skeleton staff of one Chinese immigrant and his French housekeeper, Sophie, ran the hotel in its entirety. Louis was very well-read and charismatic, and was fluent in French, English, German and Latin. He was a studious philosopher as well, and coming from a mining background, this made him even more mysterious. It turned out that he was really born Adolphe Francois Gerard, a translator and military deserter who had lived in London, Paris and New York before becoming enamored of the mining life, and deciding to reinvent himself as just that- a miner. He was injured in a blast after shoving his partner out of the way, and for his bravery the town started a collection which allowed him to begin his hotel business. Out back, in the little courtyard I discovered after pushing open an ajar gate, Louis would slaughter the beef he raised in his ranch a few miles away. So not only was he an astute polyglot, philosopher, and business man- he also knew how to butcher a cow! The actual iron hooks are still there, built into the walls, and the meat was then served in the restaurant that occupied the entire lower floor of the hotel- presumably cooked up deliciously by Sophie! It must have been quite a spectacle- this lavish European-esque hotel, smack in the centre of a mining town, in the middle of the Old West.
As the sun began to dip behind the mountains, the temperature dropped sharply and the mosquitos came buzzing after me. I ducked into a restaurant I happened across, the aptly named Eurocafé, and ordered a huge deep-fried Camembert with cranberry sauce. As I sat munching, dipping my bread into the gooey, fragrant cheese, I could see the lake in the distance with the setting sun reflecting off the surface. I wrapped my cardigan around my shoulders and felt quite cosy, indeed.