[caption id="attachment_6830" align="aligncenter" width="980"] Credit: Ben Kolde[/caption] I'm not one for yoga or meditation… don't get me wrong, I like to relax and take time out, but I'm not one with getting down onto a sweaty mat and trying to relax my mind whilst sweating it out in lycra. However, something caught my eye when I discovered a Norfolk blogger called Leah Larwood at Roots & Toots the other day. I found her through our mutual love for Figbar, a dessert bar in Norwich with THE best cakes, puddings and desserts the city has to offer… I noticed she too had written a blog on them recently, so I had a quick nosey at her beautiful blog posts and added her to my social media lists. She's a great sharer and one of her blog posts ("Toast: A Meditation") stuck in my mind. For days after I craved toast. Not just any toast, but a strong cuppa next to some good quality sourdough with the beautiful, creamy butter I brought back from my recent stay in the Lake District. Last night, I went home with a small loaf of seeded sourdough from "The Bertinet Bakery" range (a bakery I enjoyed visiting in Bath over my last few visits to this beautiful spa city) at Waitrose (only the best for this ritual!) and got myself into clean, comfy pyjamas and warm slippers, ready to relax into my evening. I had the house to myself, so I went all out. I dimmed the lights, set fire to my favourite candles, watched some episodes of the "Big Little Lies" boxset I had received at Christmas and I set a tea tray with my favourite tea crockery... A knitted Cath Kidston tea cosy I haven't used for ages, my favourite Alison Appleton teapot, a fun plate, even my new skeleton teaspoon - all completely mismatching, but my all time favourite pieces to enjoy this new form of meditation... ❝ Buttery toast. One of life's little pleasures. But how many of us really taste everything when we eat? Not just when we're eating toast but with anything we consume. ❞ It's such a true thought... I take for granted half the food and drink that passes my lips lately, so I sat up and took note, desperate to try thinking a little more about this. The idea is to be more present in the smaller, more mundane experiences in our everyday life. It might not be toast, it could be anything you like. But, I couldn't get the thought of hot, buttery toast out of my mind and when I think like this, I have to have it otherwise the thought will never escape - an itch just waiting to be scratched! So I went home and carried out this ritual, allowing every sense to take over and enjoy the experience of toasting my sourdough. I think I did Richard Bertinet and Leah proud - I took my time, I enjoyed every mouthful, I even went out and bought more today for the weekend, I'm hooked on the simplicity and the joy it brings in equal measures. [caption id="attachment_6832" align="aligncenter" width="980"] Credit: Jasmine Waheed[/caption] Toast: A Meditation The below meditation is taken from the book " Siddhartha's Brain – The Science of Meditation, Mindfulness and Enlightenment " by James Kingsland. Toast a piece of bread and as it's cooking, savour the distinctive aroma of white or brown, ready-sliced or crusty, seeded or unseeded. Note any happy mental associations that arise. Spread the toast with butter, Marmalade or whatever takes your fancy, listening to the rasp of the knife and appraising the texture of the toasted bread as you do so. Notice and accept any frustrations as they arise in your mind. Perhaps the butter is straight out of the refrigerator and difficult to spread? Perhaps some sticky marmalade has found its way onto your fingers? When the toast is ready to eat, look at it as if you had never seen a piece of toast before. Notice the fine structure of the bread still visible around the edges where the spread hasn't reached, the difference in colouring and texture compared with the crust, the smoothness or runniness of the butter, the glossiness of the marmalade, its contours on the bread, its colouration and constituents. Maybe there are fine strips or chunks of orange rind, tiny air bubbles, flecks of darker colour. None of this is beneath your attention. Sniff the toast and marmalade. Take a bite. Observe how the jaws, tongue and salivary glands immediately go to work of their own accord. Don't try to stop them or slow them down, just note the crunch of each bite and the accompanying sounds inside your head. Now that you are actually paying attention, it might be surprising how loud these sounds are. Notice the changing texture of the food in your mouth as the teeth grind it down and saliva dissolved it. Give your full attention to the sharp acidity and sweetness of the orange, the oily butteriness of the butter, the butty toastiness of the toast. Try all the fully automated movements of the tongue, jaws and lips as you chew and finally swallow. Notice the unfolding of all these behaviours as they happen, the almost unstoppable motivation to take another bite, and then another. All your impressions are valid, both the positive and negative. You may discover that you are enjoying the toast a whole lot more than if you'd just wolfed it down without thinking. Or perhaps you find the whole experience slightly disappointing. Maybe the toast is cold and chewy, the marmalade too sweet? There may be bitter, burned bits. Accept it all with equanimity. This is simply how the toast is. [caption id="attachment_6831" align="aligncenter" width="980"] Credit: Ben Garratt[/caption] A huge thank you to Leah for allowing me to share this blog post with you, you can visit her blog here. Why not try this for yourself? Report back in a comment below! I'd love to hear from you! Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please note – I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2018 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Friday, 12 January 2018
Fika is a Swedish tradition. It's not a revolutionary idea for the population of Sweden, it's something that is part of everyday life. You may have heard it mentioned a lot on social media or in blogs lately, it's becoming more fashionable here in the UK, a bit like the Danish idea of " Hygge"… Fika revolves around the idea of meeting up over coffee, and is always accompanied by delicious cakes, beautiful pastries or other baked goods. It's basically a coffee and cake break - now, who doesn't like the idea of that?! Think feel-good, warming drinks, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns and being surrounded by stylish Scandi settings - the Swedish answer to afternoon tea. Fika is an excuse to take a break, slow down and enjoy a moment alone or with friends, preferably away from technology and everyday distractions. You might enjoy some Fika at home or out at a café or bar. It might just take up ten minutes of your day, or an hour or two, depending on your plans. Wherever and whenever you enjoy some of this Swedish tradition, take time to enjoy it… don't just head somewhere for that perfect Instagram shot, actually put your phone away, people-watch and enjoy what's (and who is) in front of you. It's the best medicine, this tradition has my name all over it, I love to do this once a week or so, just for me. Ideally you'd enjoy Fika with a friend, it's much nicer to connect with somebody and enjoy their company than to sit alone, but sometimes that can be just as relaxing. Whilst in Stockholm last year, there were signs in candlelit coffee shop windows inviting me in to enjoy some Fika with warm, buttery cinnamon or saffron buns and quality strong coffee to go with it. With the snow falling outside and the warmth of the café allowing us to unwrap our chunky knitwear and relax in comfort, all we wanted to do is curl up and snooze in the window seats - truly my heaven! All hail the almighty Swedish coffee break. But this isn't just any old coffee break. This is your chance to take a moment away from your busy life. Make yourself a cup or pot of your favourite tea or coffee, add a delicious biscuit or sweet treat to your favourite plate or tea tray (perhaps even invite a friend to join you for constructive/positive conversation if you fancy) and enjoy a guilt-free slice of the day to sit and focus on you. We are all guilty of being busy… no matter who asks you how you are, I bet your answer lately is "I'm so busy"… Not news, we are ALL so busy in our lives. But, I'm going to break it to you right here, right now… You are never too busy to stop and just switch off for a few moments. The world won't end, your phone won't implode if you're not answering every Facebook notification right away… Go on, I dare you… slow down, enjoy some Fika in your life just once or twice this week and watch what happens. Put your phones down and physically connect with somebody today. If you want to read more about my adventures in Sweden, then click here for my guide on things to do in Stockholm and click here for my review of my Airbnb apartment in Stockholm. Do YOU enjoy Fika? Or is this a concept you don't feel works for you? I'd love to hear from you in a comment below, how do you slow down and relax? Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please note – I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:email@example.com All images © 2018 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Budapest is a destination that's been on my travel wish list for some time now. It's beauty, the food, 'ruin bars' aplenty, the spas.... why haven't I been sooner?! I enjoyed 6 days and 5 nights in this stunning city towards the end of the summer and the food alone needs a blog post, so here it is - my guide to eating (and drinking!) your way around Hungary's capital city. Budapest is going to tempt me back again and again, I'm pretty sure it hasn't seen the last of Miss Sue Flay - it's truly one of my favourite locations for a well deserved break. You can watch my video from this visit to Budapest here: [youtube height="HEIGHT" width="WIDTH"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjqWXk_aQfQ[/youtube] Here are my favourite places to eat and drink in Budapest, enjoy. Brunch & Coffee: Fekete Kitchen. We had tried a different cafe, but it was closed on the Monday morning, so we stumbled upon this just around the corner from our apartment. Such a fine it was too - we had the most delicious Croque-Madame and the strongest "nitro" coffee (eek, super strong!) I've ever had, it fuelled us until dinner! They also specialise in healthy bakes and smoothies, all homemade and enjoyed in this trendy coffee bar or outside in their ornate garden courtyard. Cirkusz Café. We walked past this a few times and I'm so glad we went for brunch on our last day. Plastered with a huge circus mural, it's hard not to be enticed inside... and it's worth it! I tucked into Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon whilst my partner in crime devoured a "Hungarian" version with cured meats, both hugely satisfying, we didn't leave a crumb… Városliget (City Park) - for Lángos. This is a traditional Hungarian delicacy, of which I could only describe as a deep fried pizza base - crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, it's Hungarian fast food at its best. You could have it plain, but I highly recommend trying with cheese or sour cream - perhaps even both! We enjoyed this little kiosk in City Park for our first experience after a day in the Szechenyi spa. You could also try the kiosk at Buda Castle (At the bottom of the Sikló funicular) which was much nicer. Book Cafe at Lotz Hall. This is a hidden gem in Budapest, secretly nestled at the very top of Alexandra Bookstore on Andrássy út. It looks like any regular book shop, but ride the escalators and climb the steps to find one of my most favourite highlights of the trip - the grand ceiling, a pianist in the corner and a refreshing "Fröccs" out of the sunshine, heaven. If you go anywhere, visit this place! Corinthia Hotel Budapest. For me, this was the Holy Grail of afternoon tea venues. We didn't go for a full tier, simply a pot of tea and two generous wedges of layered cakes to share... ok.... and some savoury scones, ahem. With Abba playing in the background, within this very modern hotel, it was a very random experience. However, before visiting, the first I had ever read of Budapest and what it has to offer was through one of my favourite travel bloggers (Brooke at 'World of Wanderlust') and her blogs had inspired my want to go on holiday here. One of her blog posts on Budapest included photos of the symmetrical lobby's and restaurants around the Corinthia Hotel - so we simply had to visit. I want to return to the Corinthia to stay, it was a stunning hotel and I'd love to spend more time here one day soon, a girl can dream. The Box Donut. These guys picked me up on Instagram during our stay and they just so happened to serve amazing glazed doughnut creations that we couldn't resist. We happily tucked into a filled raspberry cheesecake and a salted caramel concoction... they beat your Krispy Kreme hands down! The New York Café. If you go anywhere for afternoon tea, even just coffee and cake, this is THE venue of the year, every year! Just wow. An opulent hotel and traditional cafe, dripping with over the top decor, candelabras and murals across the ceilings - a venue to rival tea at The Ritz for sure. It isn't a cheap venue, far from it, but worth every penny to experience the finer side of life. The same pianist from the Lotz Hall Book Cafe was happily twinkling the keys as we sat and took it all in. Read my full review here. Töltött Kürtős (Stuffed Chimney Cake). Hungarian "kürtőskalács" are an iconic Hungarian sweet treat sprinkled with different things such as sugar or cinnamon, also known as "tunnel cake". Likened to a cone shaped doughnut, we had been drooling over Instagram pictures of these being turned into summery ice cream cones - so, naturally this had to be done. We found a kiosk at Fröccsterasz in Erzsébet Square and on ordering, they looked stunning. However, this was not as glamorous as we thought it might be in 42*c.... by the time we had walked 50ft to dip our feet in the pool and enjoy our ice creams I had lost half of mine dripping into the water and the Bearded one lost half of his down the front of his shirt - so stressful! Goodness knows who gets the stunning "food porn" Instagram shots in this sort of weather!! Pubs & Ruin Bars: Terasz. A relaxing spot to soak up the sun down by the Danube River, sat directly under the iconic Elisabeth Bridge. The perfect bar to sip on a Soproni in the sunshine, reclining in a deck chair and watch the world sail by. Fröccsterasz. A great little secret for anyone visiting Budapest - Fröccs is 'THE' drink in Budapest - part wine, part carbonated water, varying in strengths depending on which you choose from the menu. This terrace overlooks the Akvárium, a trendy coffee shop, that also turns into a nightclub in the evenings. Above it, sits a shallow pool that allows you to sit in 40*c heat and dip your feet whilst enjoying your refreshing beverage - it was very welcome indeed! Zsiráf. An open-air bar by one of the main train stations (Budapest-Nyugati Pályaudvar) in Budapest - perfect for a beer in the sunshine, relaxed music and "industrial" pop-up food containers dotted around this sprawling summer terrace. Surrounded by terraced fencing and colourful flowers everywhere, it feels like a secret summer garden. Neon Udvar. An odd bar in the early evening, we were the only people here so it was fairly confusing - it felt closed, but they served us a beer regardless - the huge red "Bücherbus" had been turned into a bar and the neon signs and chilled house music made it a great place for a pre-ruin bar crawl - perhaps later at night it had a little more soul, but as an empty bar, I couldn't really comment too much... but I adored the bus, so it's going on the list. Szimpla Kert. Such a quirky ruin bar and the hub of Kazinczy Street's ever-growing nightlife scene, one of the busiest party areas of downtown Budapest. Some nights the queue to get inside was out the door and round the corner, so we headed there on our last day for a daytime burger from the fixed BBQ stand and some local craft beer. You'll never stop looking around the little nooks and crannies, rammed full of quirky toys, games, vintage Russian cars and ornaments. We even scrawled our names on the "graffiti wall" so go find "Miss Sue Flay" and drop me a line if you spot me…! Kőleves Kert. A hangout like none other - a bar surrounded by swinging hammocks, colourful chairs and great beer on tap - I adored this ruin bar for it's chilled out vibe. The bar staff were super friendly and the variation of tourists and locals mixed around the tables. We took advantage of their wifi and got a few FaceTime family calls in, such a friendly place to hang out. Kuplung. Very easy to miss, tucked away within a little courtyard, graffiti and decorated walls everywhere you looked with a sea/spacey theme - curious! Jelly fish decorations hanging everywhere and friendly travellers chatting amongst each other, swapping travel stories and tips - one of my favourite ruin bars. Restaurants & Eateries: Bocadillo Astoria Mediterrán. On our first night we took a punt on dinner, there was so much choice as we walked around that it was so hard to decide. We tucked into a shared Hungarian meat platter which included duck breast in red wine jus, chicken breast with garlic & spinach cheese sauce, duck liver and Hungarian sliced meats - it was great value for money and lots of it, we were stuffed and the service was super friendly. Goodbar - Goodburger. Sat outside in the warm street after dark was actually very relaxing and this burger bar served a great selection of craft beers and juicy burgers to satisfy our meat cravings - they really do serve good beers and even good-er burgers. Street Food Karaván. If you fancy trying street food, but a little worried about finding a dodgy food vendor (not that we found any of those here) then Karaván (in the Jewish Quarter) is the place for you. We enjoyed picking little bits up from different food vendors just before the heavens opened and the place cleared during the biggest rain/thunderstorm of the week. We tried food from The Real Cheeseburger, Kolbice by Kobe Sausages and shared a scoop of Snickers Ice Cream on the way out - yum. We dipped into here during the night of a mini "Ruin Bar" pub crawl, it complimented it perfectly. Reuben Restaurant. This highly rated restaurant was next door to our apartment and came up high on TripAdvisor for Hungarian cuisine. This was, hands down, the best meal of the week, it was beautiful. If you want a romantic meal In Budapest, book a table (we got turned away once before as we hadn't booked!) - they are very popular, for very good reason. The Great Market Hall. This is a bustling food market, filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, baked goods, herbs and spices. You can buy super fresh produce, Hungarian Paprika by the sack load as well as traditional souvenirs - treat yourself to an intricate lace tablecloth or a bread roll holder for a great gift idea. We enjoyed food upstairs on the first floor from one of the many hot food kiosks - goulash served in a bread roll bowl and the biggest spiced sausage and plate of smashed potato I've ever seen. Food can be pricey here, but for the atmosphere alone is worth a visit. The Vintage Garden. I'd seen this place recommended through a blog, it's very special and like nowhere else we visited in Budapest. As well as being a flower shop and bakery, this French-inspired restaurant also has a herb garden under the sky light and a private Hawaiian-style tiki hut at the back of their floral, vintage restaurant. Because we pre-booked a table, we were seated in the tiki hut which was so much fun to enjoy our little date night dinner in. The fresh salmon fillet with green beans was superb, make sure you go if you're looking for somewhere special. Wherever you go in Budapest, it isn't going to disappoint - we never had a bad meal or drink - and we plan to return again soon, one of my most favourite locations of all time. Why not take a nosey at my blog post on the street art on offer within Budapest? Or a more detailed review on The New York Café? Have you been to Budapest yourself? Leave a comment below with your food and drink recommendations, I'd love to hear from you for my next visit. Read my "About Me" page here! See more of my travel videos here and more of my food review videos here. Or get in touch via social media through Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for a natter about life in general! Please note – I am in no means obliged to blog or write about this event, brands associated to it or their offerings, but I simply choose to share with my readers, should I wish to do so. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email:firstname.lastname@example.org All images © 2018 Miss Sue Flay, these may not be used or reproduced without written permission from the owner, many thanks in advance.