Barcelona is perfect for a quick getaway: cute hidden cafes, a cosmopolitan mix of Spanish, Catalan, and English.
Oh, and the BEACH.
I hadn’t been to the beach in something like two years, so it was a welcome return. And a good way to use up the SPF 50 I keep buying.
When we weren’t sunning ourselves, we managed to get a look at the city. As you probably well know, the architecture in Barcelona is super opulent and striking. The art nouveau structures of Gaudí and Montaner dot the city with colour and pattern–like La Sagrada família and Montaner’s Palau de la Música. Impresionante, sí?
I can’t wait to get back, but until then,¡Hasta luego, Barcelona!
Well, my time in Moscow is coming to an end. After almost three years in Northern Europe, first in Estonia, now here, it’s time to go home. But before I do, I’ve got some big travel plans: off to the UK and Spain next week, followed by one more Moscow week, then onwards to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, and South Korea. The only thing that remains now is that Chinese visa!…and making a series of hotel reservations…and buying train tickets…and packing up my apartment. But it’s really soon!
Also, I wanted to mention that this blog has been around for almost two years, which really does blow my mind. Time flies, so I’d better get to all the things I want to do, all the things I still want to write about. Happy early birthday, Bloggie. And thanks for visiting, all of you!
It’s hard to find a stretch of parkland in Moscow that isn’t “developed.” I love Gorky Park and Sokolniki, both gleaming after their respective refurbishments, but they function more as fairgrounds than relaxing nature preserves. Suzdal, around 3.5 hours away from Moscow, fills the need for greenery. Furthermore, after Moscow the atmosphere feels refreshingly simple–no factories, no train station, and an economy that runs on tourism and medovukho production.
Suzdal is only one city in the “golden ring” around Moscow (other famous cities include Vladimir, Yaroslavl, and Sergeev Posad). I haven’t been to the others, but Suzdal is said to be among the nicest; it was spared a lot of industrialization during Soviet days, unlike, say, Vladimir.
To wrap your head around Suzdal’s geography, most of the major sites run along one street: ulitsa Lenina. At the bottom of the street are the Kremlin and the Museum of Wooden Architecture, and at the top are the Convent of the Intercession and the Euthimiev Monastery, as shown above. The street probably runs a total of 1.5 kilometres, but you can check this map for more information.
Logistically, I’d recommend taking the 3-hour train or elektrichka (commuter train) to Vladimir, then the 50-minute bus to Suzdal. You can even get on the super-fast Sapsan train to Nizhny Novgorod, which also makes a stop in Vladimir. If it’s a holiday weekend, you may want to reconsider going by car; my friends went to Suzdal the Saturday of the May long weekend, and the trip back to Moscow took nearly seven hours. Consider yourselves warned. There are loads of tours that will take you around the golden ring, but if you speak some Russian, and have the time to stay overnight, you can keep a relaxed pace and really enjoy your city break.
Putting aside for a moment the homemade Snickers bars, this might be the most unhealthy recipe I’ve ever posted; five egg yolks, half a pound of butter, and nearly half a pound of sugar. But since we’re going to be stuck in Moscow winter for all eternity, there’s no need to prepare for swimsuit season.
This cake is based on the traditional French Gâteau Breton, which tells me right away that it will be satisfyingly old-fashioned: butter, flour, sugar and eggs. No leaveners, no stabilisers. In fact, there’s nothing light about this at all.
Click here for another buckwheat cake, from almost exactly this time last year
- 140g buckwheat flour
- 140g all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp plus 1/3 tsp sea salt (this is the place to use any fancy salt you have lying around)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 240g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 175g sugar (any kind will do)
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 whole egg
- seeds of one vanilla pod (alternatively, 3/4 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar)
The glaze: 1 large egg yolk and 1 tsp milk
Butter a 9- or 10-inch removable-bottom tart pan or, failing that, use a pie dish as I did. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
In a small bowl, mix the buckwheat and all-purpose flower together with 1/2 tsp salt and the cinnamon
In a separate bowl, cream the butter until it’s soft and airy. If you’re too lazy to wait and put the butter in the oven to melt as I did, it won’t be any great harm. Mix in the sugar and cream together until it’s uniform.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks and the whole egg. Stir in the vanilla. Give it a few good whisks or a good pass with the electric mixer. Then mix the eggs into the butter and sugar, stirring well. Slowly pour in the flour mixture and stir until it’s just combined. Scrape into your prepared pan and level the top with a spatula.
Mix the glaze together and spread over the top of the cake with a pastry brush or your fingers. Then draw a lattice design over the top by raking your fork across the top in three parallel lines. Then make three parallel lines going diagonally, forming a criss-cross design. Sprinkle the rest of the salt over the top, and put your cake in the oven. The original recipe says it should bake for 45 minutes, but mine took 25. Judge accordingly: you want your cake to be golden and shiny, but not at all dry.
My cake got a little burnt in our manic Soviet oven, but even so I think it looks very pretty with its latticed top and glazed edges. A good cake for staying in while the last of winter plays out. This little guy understands: