With 2018 drawing to a close and a couple of days of annual leave still to use up, Laurence and I headed over to Northern Germany for a long weekend, dividing our time between fairy tale-esque Bremen and industrial Hamburg. Admittedly, Bremen wasn’t really on my radar until we plugged various dates into Ryanair’s Fare Finder, and discovered that we could fly into Bremen and out of Hamburg for a little over £25 each, and thereby see two places, albeit briefly, in one trip.
New year, same me (minus the scaly, eczema-plagued hands). 2018 was a blast, even if I am hurtling towards being a member of the quarter-century club (argh, how time flies!). To those who have read La Grenouille Anglaise since the beginning, and to those who have joined along the way, thank you – for your comments, support and words of encouragement. With 2019 already well underway, it’s time to take a look back at some of 2018’s most memorable moments. On y va !
If I actually owned all the books I’d read this year, my (real) bookshelf would be overflowing, creaking at the joints under the weight of masses of thrillers and autobiographies. Fortunately, between Cambridge Central Library and the book swap box at work I rarely need (or have cause) to buy a book, so my bookshelf is, for the time being at least, under control. (That said, I did bag a few bargains, including Nelson Mandela’s Dare Not Linger at a charity book sale at work earlier this month.) Honourable mentions for this quarter go to Kristen Lepionka’s What You Want to See (an electrifying sequel to The Last Place You Look) and Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (which completely lived up to the praise it had received).
Christmas, for me, is all about spending time with my nearest and dearest (who these days don’t live so very near to me), playing board games one after the other (Scrabble, Articulate, Monopoly – you name it, we’ll be playing it) and indulging in festive treats (especially sweet festive treats). When Laurence told me that Sainsbury’s were selling mince pie flavoured cookies, I couldn’t resist picking up a bag on my way home from work. (Could you?) I saved the packet, checked the ingredients and spent that weekend making some tweaks to my tried-and-trusted cookie recipe. Featuring a generous helping of currants, sultanas and mixed peel and a dash of cinnamon, they taste like Christmas in a cookie (if I do say so myself).
So many sweet treats, so little time. I can’t be the first person (and likely won’t be the last) to have faced this dilemma in Lisbon, such was the number of confeitarias with enticing window displays. Our solution? Cake for breakfast (or rather, part one of our breakfast). Chocolate cake, in fact, with a caramel mirror glaze from Confeitaria Nacional (Praça da Figueira 18). Founded in 1829 by Balthazar Castanheiro, it quickly established a reputation for quality pastries; in 1873, King D. Luís I granted it a royal warrant, and Confeitaria Nacional became a supplier of the Portuguese royal family. Incredibly, it’s still in the hands of the founder’s family six generations on.
Just a hop, skip and a tram ride away from the centre of Lisbon is Belém, a veritable treasure chest of tourist attractions. In Belém, Portugal’s Age of Discovery lives on – in the majestic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the iconic Torre de Belém and the imposing Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
Lisbon is steep, cobbled streets, canary-yellow vintage trams and seemingly endless miradouros (viewpoints). Lisbon is pastéis de nata, leitão (suckling pig) sandwiches and bacalhau any which way you like it; a foodie’s dream. Lisbon quickly, effortlessly, captured my heart: it’s a city which oozes character and charm; a city which leisurely wandering is made for; a city which feels like a long-lost friend.