Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A Pablo Neruda poem

Lost in the forest...

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig

and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.

Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind

as if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood---
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.

Pablo Neruda

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Paul, the Patisserie

It would be fair to disclose before hand that I have an incorrigible sweet tooth. ‘Paul’, the French chain which sells desserts across Europe, is my favorite dessert shop and they have two stores in Canary Wharf. The bigger of the two is near the main entrance to the underground shopping mall just near the Jubilee line exit. This is where all the cakes and pasties came from for our office desk-celebrations for birthdays. The smaller one is right outside my office exit to the Jubilee mall, where I get my lunch. This is where my afternoon after-lunch treats come from. I am a fan of their macaroons. And I can never get enough of the chocolate éclairs. Check out their menu here:

As I was digging into my after-lunch treat today, a young colleague and friend at work noted that in order to stay “competitive” in the market, one must be vigilant. I suppose he is right. Having a salad for lunch and topping with a strawberry cheese cake totally kills the purpose. But I refuse to give up my love and loyalty to Paul.

Monday, 13 April 2009

More about Brussels...

Brussels was a tad unkempt as compared to Bruges, but the architecture is very eye-catching. I decided to walk from the station to the city center rather than take a guided tour or a day pass. It was a nice sunny day, so I sat in one of them touristy restaurants in the Grote Markt (or Grand Place), and had the Kwak beer. Check out the wooden handle and the glass. The Glass never comes out of the stand, and you need to lift the it by the holding the wooden handle. It was the first time that I had two pints of beer, before mid day. Fabulous!

I met a an enthusiastic American tourist, who’d chosen to be in Brussels rather than home on Easter. So we teamed up to walk the city. She wanted to check out the Parliament houses and surroundings, and I didn’t mind as I didn’t really have a plan. We had lunch and some more beer at another open air restaurant, and topped it up with a strawberry and chocolate waffle. Yummm!!!

In Bruges, and Brussels

My two days in Belgium were absolutely fabulous. I though I’d share my experience for those who might want to go to Brussels or Bruges.

The Eurostar train always makes me wonder at the ease of traveling within Europe. It’s convenient, it’s well connected within Europe and also to London underground, and the international customs are so much better managed, especially if you compare to the nightmare called Heathrow. Anyway, so I bought these last minute tickets online, and although the price becomes a bit steep if you don’t reserve tickets in advance, the convenience of it all doesn’t make it pinch so badly. I bought a Brussels return ticket, and could travel anywhere within Belgium with this. Voila!


Bruges, also called Brugge, is absolutely breathtaking. It was so very romantic and so beautiful. People generally visit Bruges with their partners (I was one of the very few odd balls who were wandering about alone). I thought the city reminded me of Bern, although Bern was a bit too uptight (for lack of another word) for my taste. There is a natural innocence and romanticism to Bruges, which is hard to miss. Of course, like all touristy places, the city has its share of money-minded businessmen robbing you off for 9 Euros for a bland Spaghetti Bolognese, but still I thought the local people were friendly and very happy to have visitors.
I am not a beer person but actually the beers in both Bruges and Brussels were great. Cheery beer and the white and light Belgian beer (think it’s called the blonde beer or something), are a very nice try for about 5 euros for half a pint. The Sterling-Euro exchange rate didn’t help me much here as it is at parity now. I wouldn’t recommend going overboard on food though. I chose the popular and crowded places to eat but didn't want to end up
spending a lot for what I can cook better myself. I kept to simplistic food, but tried out different beers. I loved them beers :)

One day was enough for me to cover the city on foot. My hotel was quite central, so it was easy to just catch a bus ride to wherever. The city is inundated with small and large chocolate shops. I bought some from an underground shop called “Chocolatier Dumon”. It’s on Eirmarkt street, and apparently the most famous chocolate store in town. I hope the pack I got for my family is worth it! The Eirmarkt street also has a couple of clubs with some rather gaudy music, but who cares after a couple of drinks!!

I will continue Brussels in my next post...