November 2012 archive

A few things I have noticed along the way.

Europe is great! Each country is very different from the next and there’s so much to see and learn with each passing day. We’re always surprised how much the scenery changes as soon as you cross a new border and during our travels, I have made a mental list of some of the things I miss about Canada, things I took for granted:

 

-King and queen sized beds in hotels. Below is a picture of a (fancy) standard hotel room in Europe. You want to sleep together you have to kick the beds together and build a pillow bridge or you must pay a premium.

-Paying to use public washrooms.  They’re inexpensive but don’t be fooled, paying doesn’t necessarily insure a clean washroom.

-Red meat. Eastern Europeans love their pig, it’s diverse and affordable. I haven’t been able to buy red meat since Italy. Side note, did you know that Europeans and Northern Americans butcher their meat differently? Most cuts of meats are unrecognizable to me, making it a challenge to guess the necessary cooking time and temperature.

-Ziplock bags. They exist because I once found some in Hungary, but they are certainly not the norm. Go to any Wal-Mart type store and all you will find are sandwich bags with twist ties. Imagine a life without Ziplocks, I use them for everything.  I had to get my lovely Mother to smuggle some across the bother when she was here.

-Paying for your ketchup, sauce or dip of any kind will cost you a few cents.

-Romania, Bulgaria and oddly enough, Austria will let you smoke in pubs, clubs and restaurants. Ew.

-Food diversity at the grocery store. Each country has it’s own products and it stops at that; unlike a typical Canadian grocery store which offers small varieties of foods from several countries. When you’re in Poland you’re eating Polish sausage, 2 types of Polish cheeses, 3 types of Polish soup, etc. We are always excited to eat like the locals but unfortunately, if you have craving French brie, you better hop in your car and drive to France.    

-Clean roads and beaches. Sadly most Eastern Europeans are slobs, littering like crazy, destroying beautiful cities and landscapes. Wake up people! This is your land, take care of it.

-Number one let down so far; the lack of fresh cilantro! Only discovered twice in the last seven months, it’s been very hard cooking without one of my favorite ingredients. 

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Mustard and rosemary pork chop, green peas with butter and celeriac slaw.

This recipe is extremely fast and easy to make.

Meat: In a ziplock bag, throw in 3 cloves of smashed garlic, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, the juice of a lemon, a tablespoon of rosemary, salt, pepper and your meat. Marinate for 20 minutes or more (do it before work and let it marinate all day).  

Slaw: Grate into a bowl half a bulb of peeled celeriac and half a small white onion. Mix in a tablespoon of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of vinegar, a 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Optional: add a small grated carrot for colour.

On a hot pan, sear the pork chops for about 3 minutes on each side, until nice and golden brown. Cover for a minute then remove from heat and let rest. Slice a large onion and caramelize it in the same pan with the meat juices and a little butter. While you cook your meat, steam your peas, drain and add lots of butter, salt and pepper.

Plate your peas and slaw, place your meat on top of the peas letting the lovely juices mix in with the peas. Garnish the pork chop with your caramelized onions.

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A prettier side of Bulgaria.

So far, the Bulgarian scenery hasn’t really impressed me, big boring brown fields with hardly any civilization to be seen. Now that we’ve hit the coast everything’s changed, hyper green meadows to my right and the aqua blue Black Sea crashing into white sand beaches on my left.

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Plus, I’ve spotted a couple life forms!

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Sunny Beach resorts, Bulgaria.

Imagine the beaches of Mexico with hotels and casinos that rival the ones in Las Vegas…but in Bulgaria!?! That’s right folks, Bulgaria is the place to be in the summer months. Their “off-season” literally means OFF, as in shut down, not one soul in sight, nada, nothing. It’s very cool walking down the deserted streets, I felt like I was in a zombie movie.

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Challenge!

This year’s my champagne birthday, I turn 30 on November 30th.

On my birthday, November 30th, I challenge YOU to create the fanciest meal you’ve ever made, take a picture of it and submit to me or post it on Facebook.

 

The prize; nothing really but you like a good challenge don’t you?

 

Champagne drinking is recommended.

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Bucharest, the Romanian capital.

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Another amazing city! Surprisingly, everyone who lives here tends to disagree with us. Yes, poverty and strict communist rule has scarred the entire country but Romania, especially Bucharest, has so much to offer. The expansive “Old Town” has many pedestrian streets with ENORMOUS buildings that tower over you, shops and restaurants on the street level, apartments and offices on the higher floors.   

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Abandoned or under construction? Either way this building is at least 1 km X 1 km. What is this, Vegas? 

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The Dâmbovița River 

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Sadness in Romania.

Last Sunday was a gloomy day in Constanta Romania in every sense of the word. At noon, we parked a block away from a brand new busy mall and spent the next 4 hours sitting in the warm food court recharging our electronics, stealing Wifi, drinking beers and staying dry from the pouring rain. Coming back, we turned onto our street my heart sank, our van, our house for the last 6 months had been broken into. The thieves pulled back our fancy door lock, ripping the side of the van  open like a sardine tin then popped open the lower half of our door and crawled in. This is what they took: our crappy GPS that we never use (it sent us down one way streets in the wrong direction several times), a few watches, our tiny no name camera with a few memory cards, a wooden box full of Halloween chocolates and sadly they also took our fancy Canon camera and carrying case (we usually have it with us but it was too gloomy to play photographer that day). The police came and tried their best to help/console us but it was pretty clear that nothing could be done and we must cut our losses.

Bad luck, we parked on a lit and busy street near a big brand new mall, we locked all our doors plus our security locks, everything was hidden from sight,  it was a Sunday between noon and four, what else could we have done?  The police said that they are very short staffed with only 3 cars patrolling the entire city. The gypsies take advantage of this plus, they really have nothing to lose.

The damage to the car is now repaired and we must carry on. We were fortunate enough to have all of our other gadgets with us at the time and most importantly, our documents left untouched and the car mostly unharmed. Sadly, the thieves took our things and left behind a feeling of unease.

 

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