Monday, 28 April 2014

April Watch List

I have been watching lots of TV this month. Lots of TV. Anyone in the UK, will know about how addictive Endeavour is and oh my that cliff hanger. I was absorbed and reminded of my reasons why I love Cornwall over the Easter Bank holiday with BBC version of Jamaica Inn. I was screaming over an particular episode of Th e Good Wife and have actually stopped watching it, temporarily, as I found out there will season 6 which I have mixed feelings over. Getting back in the groove with Marvel: Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. I'm still obsessed with American Horror Story, I still can't get over how quickly I watched all 3 seasons, in 4 days. I can't wait until the fourth series, especially as its been announced that it will take place in a carnival/freak show. Makes me think of one the best TV series ever made, Carnivale. Game of Thrones started up again so that had been taking over my mind. Fargo also started, I have it taped so I waiting for a free moment to enjoy that show. And I have basically been looking out for new shows to get obsessed about. Turn, Halt & Catch Fire are definitely on the list. But as for films, its been rather quiet. I have only been to the cinema twice. Very disappointing, but I think my choices were excellent.

I loved this film so much when I saw it at the BFI Film Festival last year I had to see it on the big screen one more time. This time I couldn't get the soundtrack out of my head so of course I went and bought it. You can read my thoughts of the film here. 5/5

This is the remake. For other reasons stated in a previous post, I have not seen the original yet. After seeing this film, which just be renamed, Incest: The Movie, I think I do need to see the famed original. The first half the film played out well. A dirtbag advertising executive is a mess, he drinks, forgets his fatherly duties and ruins business meetings. Suddenly he's trapped in what appears to be a hotel room when in fact its a prison. He's is trapped for is trapped for 20 years, while being tortured with images of his daughter as she grows up thinking he murdered her mother. Suddenly he is released so he sets out looking for his daughter and the man responsible for his years of torture. That half was interesting, even the part where he starts to follow back who captured him but then when the villain explains his plan and past, the film drifts off. I lost interest and thought the reasons behind it all were a tad anti climactic and disgusting. It certainly wasn't great but it wasn't appalling either. Apart from seeing the original, I never want to see this film again for cinematic reasons and story reasons. 2/5

The premise for this film was so simple and it is for this reason (and the cast) that I wanted to see this film. 'I'm going to kill you on Sunday Father'. A good priest is faced with this in confession in the opening scene. We, the audience don't know who the person is, we can only see Brendan Gleeson's face. We can't even recognise the voice of the person, which I liked. I was worried that throughout the film I'd be guessing who it was but the story is well thought out and leads you away from that opener, you become more invested in Gleeson's character. I have to say, the last third of the film is very moving. The scene between Father Lavelle and his suicidal daughter is son brilliantly acted, its understated and not dramatic, you feel sorry for both characters. This is the same feeling for the final scenes in the film, its not dramatic, its well played out and brilliant story. The mix of very black comedic moments mixed with tragic situations is just perfect.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Visiting Childhood

When I was a child, I didn't really like looking at old building or going on walks or exploring unless we drove there first, I like to think that I've changed. One thing I did enjoy when I was young was museums, especially The Natural History Museum. I do enjoy going to see special exhibitions too, especially when they are free!

The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is free to visit and is very popular with school children, after walking through those doors, I can see why.

What brought me to the museum was an article in Time Out magazine. While at work I read about an exhibition about Jacqueline Wilson's work and childhood that currently on at the museum. I loved her books when I growing, a huge fan, I had many of her books, a couple in hardback too, in fact I still have them. Wilson was my favourite author while growing, apart from Enid Blyton and C.S Lewis, so I was really excited to see an exhibition about the books. I also wanted to use my days off, not just to sleep half the day away and do the laundry.

Easy journey to the museum, which is literally a stones throw away from the tube station. I was excited to be out in the sun, on a day off AND it was free to get it. The 'free' part will always make me happy, always. I had to dash ahead of a rather large group of school children. It reminded me of in Budapest on the Chain bridge, having to outrun the herd. This mini heard were fast and even when I got inside the museum, I was surrounded.

The museum layot reminded me of the Pitts River Museum in Oxford in the way it was set up, except far less cluttered, leaving space to breath. The Jacequline Wilson exhibition was on the second floor and took up almost the whole side. We were allowed to takes photos inside but I snapped the floor just before which was covered in the book covers.

The exhibition started off from Wilson's childhood, with a reconstruction of her bedroom as a child, complete with a bookshelf with all the books she read, as well as all her notebooks with her first written stories. There was a section about her family life, her career and how she decided to become a writer. Specific books were concentrated on, such a Tracy Beaker series which inspired the CBBC TV series. I remember when the TV show first started, I loved it, I used to rush home to see it but after the series drifted away from the book, I lost interest. Another book that focused on was The Illustrated Mum, I had it in hardback, the story about a single mother with many tattoos and her two very different daughters. Apparently Wilson was inspired after seeing a young mother, with many tattoos, in a park in London with two young children. Some of the newer stories were featured, including the stories of Hetty Feather, an orphan left at the Foundling Hospital and how she makes her way through life joining the circus. There was also a section about Nick Sharratt, the illustrator who has worked with Wilson on many books.

After taking my time in the exhibition, I had a look around at all the other exhibits on display, including nearly a whole floor on some amazing dollhouses. There was also a very delicate looking Alice in Wonderland chess set, along with many different tea sets, as well as some children's toys that even I used to play with.

The V&A Museum of Childhood was great place to spend the morning and as its not far to travel too, I might look out for other exhibitions that are on.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Jar

I've been good. In fact I've been extremely good, even resisting on holiday in Budapest. I gave up chocolate for Lent and I think I've been successful. I only ate a tiny part of fudge icing on my friend's cake which was the first baked good I've seen from him and he really wanted me to try the whole thing. Apart from that time, I have resisted. I even resisted eating the left over melted chocolate when making making rocky road for people at work. Yes, I have been that good.

By the way, for those who aren't familiar with Lent or was forced to learn about it in school, Lent is a time, 40 days to be specific, that takes place before Easter. It is the 40 days that Jesus wondered the desert being tempted by the devil. Or something along those lines. Anyway, Lent is one of those things that stuck from childhood.

Anyway, at the start of Lent I said I was going to fill a jar with chocolate over the 40 days then at the end of it, eat everything in the jar. People said that it was stupid and didn't make sense. I thought of it as a prize at the end. Now, with only two days to go, I don't feel like eating the chocolate I have stored. In fact, all I'm looking forward to, chocolate wise, is a special yoghurt I bought today. I checked, it will keep til Sunday.

To be honest, I give up chocolate on a regular basis. Every Lent, well almost every Lent, I give it up and every year I succeed in not only making it through the 40 days but also giving it up for longer. Last year was an exception. I tried to give something up but things didn't go to plan, then I was made redundant. I have actually gone without chocolate, sweets, crisps and other such goodies for over a year. Of course I still drank and ate biscuits so it was not for dietary reasons but just to see if I could.

I know I can. It may feel like a cheat seeing as I have to avoid so many others things in my diet now which makes it near impossible for me to enjoy a meal. No wheat, rice, onions, mushrooms, nuts obviously and potato, the latter by choice. Now, no chocolate.

There are two things I know for sure I can never give up. Coffee and dairy. But I think I might have to cut down on certain diary products. Although last time I gave up cheese in all forms for 4 months, everyone shouted at me. That was a weird and uncomfortable time.

Back to the jar I have hidden in my room, as well as some other chocolate delight that I remembered about the other day, I haven't filled it, but there are a few things stored. I wanted to find the mystical white Areo to put in but I cannot find it anywhere, so please if you know, in UK, where I can buy this, please tell me!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

By The Danube

Last day in Budapest was rather laid back. We packed up our suitcase and locked up the flat and all the doors for the last time.

We finally had a proper breakfast and after viewing the choices near by we went to the highly recommended (in guides) New York Cafe which happened to be conveniently across the street. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any photos of the amazing interior, it felt like walking into a palace or, as I always, it was like walking onto a film set. The food matched the surroundings too. We each ordered, what we thought was, a simple poached eggs breakfast, but what we were given was a delightful looking meal. The eggs came in individual cups AND with salad, as well as our own little extras we picked to go with the eggs. The waiter was really nice too, after I explained about the dread nut allergy that always gets in the way, he brought me some special non nut bread, which was also gluten free! Heaven. Plus the coffee was delicious.

After breakfast we waddled down to the river, stuffed full of our first and sadly last breakfast in the city. We wondered around a market place where some sort of festival was happening before asking buying tickets for the 'simplest boat ride/tour with no lunch'. That is what we asked for and that is what we got, plus two free drinks.

We had plenty of time until the ride and walked along the Danube promenade, past the Parliament and next the the Shoes on the Danube Promenade memorial. The memorial was put in place for the 60 victims shot into the river by Arrow Cross militiamen in 1944-1945.

On a happier note, the boat ride was relaxing, it felt right to look over the riverside before we left and it was great to see parts of that we hadn't see by foot. Although we travelled under one too many, I enjoyed it, unfortunately, my photos aren't that great.

We took a metro back to our area, couldn't face walking, my ankles had started to hurt, it got worse on the plane. We went back to the Book Cafe and it beautiful ceiling for some more coffee, this time a caramellowcino (or something along those lines) lunch and we shared a blueberry mousse. A perfect end to the trip.

We were lucky to get a lift back to the airport, which was rather smaller than expected. We thought how to spend the last forint (HUF), we didn't, then it was the very long walk to the gate. Just as we had arrived walking across the tarmac and along fenced off tunnels, so we left that way but not before were forced to wait in what could only be described as a warehouse for ages. The plane was also delayed, not helping my then swelling ankles. The warehouse was the place that in any other airport would be the departure lounge.

I was restless most of the way back and was seriously confused and irritated by all the children coming back from Grenoble who were collecting their luggage too. It was sort of good to be home. But after my day off it was back to work, then I wanted to be on holiday again.

Already planning the next trip in my head . . . .

Sunday, 13 April 2014

You MUST See This

You HAVE to see this.

You MUST see this.

If you don't watch this, you will regret it.

WHAT! You STILL haven't seen this?

I am guilty of saying these things to people. All the time. In fact most of the time when I say this to people, they are the ones who say it to me too. I suppose I am known for brushing aside others opinions to evoke my own, only when it comes to films and TV though. Those are the areas where I have my strongest and yes, most aggressive opinions. But I think its better to be quite passionate about a neutral subject like that rather than a subject where people fight over it ... just my opinion.

Apart from me, trying to convince everyone at work that The Hobbit films are amazing works of cinema and trying to get my parents to watch anything I suggest without them only watching it because someone else suggested they watch it, that really annoys me, there are plenty of films and TV shows where I have be hounded to watch. Yes, literally hounded. Here is only a small selection.

Oldboy, 2003, dir. Park Chan-wook

Yes, I get it, this film is (meant to be) amazing, STOP TELLING ME. This started off in college, my friends who loved the film would not let it go. Being stubborn, if I am told to watch something enough times and it didn't interest me in the first place, I just won't do it. I was hounded so much, I didn't watch it. My interest was peaked though when the remake came out, I thought it was time to watch the original. But then the hounding started again. I've seen the remake, but more on my thoughts about that film in another post. I will one day watch the original film, probably by accident.

The Seven Samurai, 1954, dir. Akira Kurosawa

Being told to watch this film started off as a joke and to be honest, its only my Dad who keeps telling me to watch it. He even tried to bribe into watching the film. It didn't work. It comforts me that there are some film enthusiasts and film critics and filmmakers who have not watched this (so I'm told) masterpiece. So in my defence, there is really no rush to watch this. Stop telling me to watch it Dad!

Scarface, 1983, dir. Brian De Palma

Sorry gangster film fans, I really have no interest in this film. Al Pacino is a good actor but not the best that ever lived. I would however be interested in the original black and white film made in 1932.

The Godfather Trilogy, 1972, 1974, 1990, dir Francis Ford Coppola

I have actually seen the first film, I liked it but (please don't strike me down for saying this) I started to watch the second film but got bored and left the room. I suppose its the old gangster film vibe that didn't interest me. Going back to the first Godfather, I can see why its a classic and why every film fan holds it in high esteem. 

Breaking Bad, 2008-2013

This is a major one, like Oldboy. I've actually seen part of the first episode, long before i was harassed to see it, long before it was even remotely popular. I downloaded the first episode because it was free and I couldn't ease into it. I kept it for another day but that day turned into years. Then it was popular. Everyone started talking about it but I just pushed it to the back burner, decided to wait until first season was done but then there was other shows I wanted to watch more so again, I waited til the show ended but guess what, it's still waiting to be watched. I am have been hounded, again, by so many people to watch it, I think I might just burn the DVD. Now, I can be persistent but no where near as bad as others have been about this damn TV show. Even the media hounds me about it. I will watch it or I won't watch it, it really doesn't matter.

Those have been the main ones, also, I'm not sure if you've noticed, but they are all popular films and a popular TV show. I like to think that apart from defending Middle Earth, I try to recommend films and shows not seen by many or talked about many, therefore I like to think that I am recommending variety and unusual finds. Right?

So, go and watch Green Wing, Utopia, Bored to Death, In Plain Sight and Banshee. Oh and look up, Death to Smoochy, The Fall, Broken, The Lonely Guy and Micmacs.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Bathing in Coffee and Goulash (not literally)

Second in Budapest, not so warm waking up but our 40 minute walk to the city park soon warmed us up. We did debate taking transport to the baths, but to me it seemed complicated so, we walked. I was still knackered from the excess amount of walking the day before, so not only did the 40 minutes walk wake me up, it tired me out too.

We passed some more impressive statues, I actually wish I had some sort of guide to all the statues in the city, some of them were so beautiful, sounds cliches but they looked liked they had a story behind them. Or I'm going to make them up.

The Szechenyi Baths were magnificent. Look it up on the web, look at those photographs, that is what it actually looked like, except the main pool in the middle outside wasn't open, but otherwise, it was it was still really fun. It took a lot of convincing from my sister to buy a swimming costume and actually get into the pool. I love swimming but I have my own reasons for going for so long. Swimming pool changing rooms are disgusting, sorry, but they are. I despise them. That hideous experience aside, I loved the baths and did sit a while in the thermal pool too, although not too long, it got crowded. The outdoor pools were heated and I didn't want to leave but were were both getting sleepy and hungry.

After we had decided to get the metro back and we had washed our hair and things, we wondered down the main street that felt so familiar to us, we both felt like we had been in the city longer than a day and half. We had been recommended a particular cafe by someone and as it turned it was the same cafe that I myself was really keen to visit. The Book Cafe - Lotz Terem is located in a 19th Century building that used to be a department store, now a modern book shop, similar to Waterstones (to me anyway). The cafe is up an escalator and has a magnificent mirrored ballroom with a beautifully painted ceiling by Karoly Lotz.

We enjoyed some more delicious cake and oh my the Irish coffees we had were amazing. I finally had the coffee in Budapest. At first I was afraid that I wouldn't get any cake, I had to ask about nuts/peanuts in the cakes and the waitress said they can't guarantee no nuts, but I chose a blueberry mousse to be safe, it was so good we shared one the next day, but thats another post.

Later on in the evening we went back towards the Great Market Hall to sample some traditional goulash at For Sale, a bar/pub/restaurant. First impression was, wow, look at all that paper pinned to the wall, second was fear. On every table there was a gigantic bowl of monkey nuts. There nuts on the floor too, nuts falling from the tables upstairs, just everywhere. Avoiding them, my sister and I sat in the window and enjoyed some more Hungarian beer and of course we had the goulash. It was super nice.

The notes that covered the walls of the bar were all written by people who had visited, so many from around the globe. We also left a note. I hope it's still there.

After a few more drinks, we made our way back to our part of town, but we instead of packing for the next day, we went to an amazing bar/club. For the life of me, I can't remember what it was called. It wasn't far from the first bar we went to on the first night. It was like walking into a bazaar. There were several places to go. There was a bar just for cocktails, people were smoking shisha in one part, smoking outside in the terrance area while watching a movie on a projector that was on the second floor. We had one drink there then ate some really good pizza, mine was ham and apple, sounds weird but tasted so good.

A day of baths, coffee, cake, beer and goulash.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

From Pest to Buda

I can't remember the last time I flew from Gatwick but my gad, it was a trek and a half from the station. Every time I thought we were there, my sister said, 'you know, we are still in the train station'. For me it was long. I have been too used to just getting trains when travelling or just a car ride to Heathrow. Anyway, when we finally got to the airport, I was getting excited.

Slightly uncomfortable in the plane, small cramped seats are great, even though the journey was 2 hours. We were picked up from the airport in Budapest by the guy whose flat we were staying in. We were ever so grateful, especially as the airport turned out to be quite while away from the city.

The flat was perfect. It had everything we needed and was situated in a district that had most of the places we had been recommended. Our flat was in a sort of complex, our front door was actually a shop on the first floor and then we had several other doors to get through to our flat on the second floor. My sister became the key master for the trip.

Since we arrived in the late afternoon, we didn't have much time to explore the city. Usually we arrive at the accommodation early in the morning and look round but this time we were at a disadvantage. We ventured along the main road near to the flat, bought a few provisions then a little later went out looking for a drink. Not far from where were were in (can't spell or pronounce area) we walked along a road filled with bars, clubs and cafes. El Rapido, a little bar underneath a burrito shop. Two guys were performing some blue grass music, complete with harmonica (and sang all in English). We enjoyed some Hungarian beer, Arany Aszok, two half litres each, which we worked out as roughly £1.50 a glass, super cheap and super delicious.  After the beer, my sister sampled a burrito, of course.

The next day we planned to start our early, we didn't. We had a small breakfast and set out for one of the oldest coffee houses in Budapest, The Gerbeaud Cafe. Luckily our waiter spoke excellent English and we order some coffee and ice cream sundaes. Both were amazing, as you can see.

After stuffing our faces with delicious sweet things, we walked it off by making our way to the river. We had amazing sunny hot weather and the Danube River looked so beautiful in the sun. We tried our best to avoid all the people trying to coask tourists on their tour buses and out run a heard of of other tourists across the Chain Bridge, said to be the best bridge on the river. We were making our way to Buda, the side of the city that had the Buda castle or as we later found out, the castle district. Feeling lazy in the hot sun and being turned away when trying to walk up the hill, I convinced my sister to take a ride up in the funicular. It was a short ride but i was very excited, then terrified of the heigh at the top.

We both noticed that there were endless statues everywhere in the city, whether it was Buda or Pest. There was a particular statue of what I eventually concluded was an eagle near to the gates of the gigantic beautiful building on the hill top. We also got to witness the changing of the guard of the building opposite, an added bonus to the trip up that hill.

We admired the view for a long while at the top, it was amazing and dare I say it, breathtaking. I pestered my sister to go inside what we still thought the castle was, but it had Hungarian Art Gallery outside. We asked a very helpful woman inside about the castle and she told us that the castle no longer existed and hadn't for many years. Fantastic. She looked quite sad that we asked about the castle Labyrinth instead of seeing the art, although I would have liked to have a look around.

We walked past a few more amazing statues and up the hill and around the streets. We found a small sign that simply said 'Labyrinth' but in Hungarian and a few feet along, a doorway with steps leading down into a dark cave like area. It was very dark down there. On the walls, there were various well lit photographs of the labyrinth and a description of the place. We went in, my sister intrigued, me, already terrified. I was right to be. The tunnel were dark, barely any light except when we came across the next scene from the opera that was being depicted with wax models, costumes and opera music. After a while the opera stopped and was replaced with history and darker tunnels. At  one point on the maps provided in the walls, there was no indication as to where we were. We stumbled on until we could hear opera music again and followed it. We went through a slighting flooded area, dripping ceiling until we found a room with a project of another opera and a few chairs, then we (I) dashed outside and climbed the steps to freedom.

After being terrified, we were still exhausted. We walked back down the hill to the bridge and walked towards food. In fact we decided to walk to the Great Market Hall along the river, mostly because we didn't see any point getting a tram and because we thought it wouldn't be that far. Roughly 30 minutes later we reached the market, an impressive hall, an indoor food market, and I was starving by this point. I gobbled down something and my sister had some delicious looking mini scones.

There were also a lot of stalls selling chilli related food products, as well as various ways to buy chilli. I didn't know this but the Hungarian chilli is their speciality, as well as their goulash dish.

After walking for felt like months, we gave in and got a tram and metro train back to our flat, where I literally collapsed and fell asleep.

I wasn't too tired to go out for dinner and drinks though. Later we ventured back out to a restaurant that had been recommended to us. Menza, decorated in 70's patterns and next to the 'tourist trap' area. We edged past all the dire bars and restaurants, including a Hooters filled with men shouting, and made it to safety and damn fine food. I enjoyed a cocktails and we both had wine. It was relaxing and I liked the fact the place was close to our flat. I think best part of that meal was definitely the beetroot risotto.

Although a very tiring day of walking and eating, it was a great first full day in the city.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Suitcase

With only one day before my sister and I venture on to Budapest, this the most unprepared we've been for one of our trips.

We booked this holiday back in January and we now doing everything last minute. We got our insurance today and we'll most probably be printing out boarding passes just before we got to sleep tomorrow. We've sort of planned what we want to do but haven't. I think it's rather exciting not knowing what to see but I like to be prepared, over prepared would be better. 

We've been given tips from people about what to see, what to drink and cake to try but the element of the trip, which is always a bind for trip away is planning what goes in the darn suitcase.

My usual way of packing is find the right suitcase, fill it up, then release how short my trip is, thin down the load then take everything out. I try a few other suitcases then end up with the one I had packed in the first place, usually with more things.

Luckily that didn't happen this time. We only moved suitcases twice.

My sister can't understand my panic over what to pack, I worry all the time, I've actually been worrying about what to pack all week. Let's hope I made the right choices with my things.

See you all in Hungary!