There is something comforting about hotel lobbies. Like being in front of a portal to a world where you are simply a guest. No commitments, no expectations, no definite plans. I am here just for a while, I don’t need to own this place to enjoy it. I take in the scent of overpowering restroom airfreshners – which I would never use at home – and I vibrate with the expectations of discovering the place. Why do I feel so good about this blissful uncertainty and change completely once the holiday is over? Our whole lives are temporary stop-overs in places we call ‘homes’. Do we really enjoy them better because we give them a permanent status? Because they are full of stuff we call ‘our own?’
At this time of year I always get asked the question: “Was Dracula real?”
Growing up in Transylvania, in a small town in the mountains, where old traditions are still preserved and even today, people gather and play cards in the graveyards on Easter night, definition of real has so many meanings.
As a child, when my grandmother was telling me that if I don’t come back before dinner time, the ‘strigoi’ will get me. Did I ever see one? Of course, with my imagination’s eyes, I can describe it even now. Was he real? My grandmother said so even if she could not really remember if she ever saw one.
And then, as I grew up, there was “Zburatorul,” a being that, if I was not careful enough, would come to torment me at night with the pain of longing, the torture of being away from the loved one…we all know some aspects of this kind of pain and it’s so very real when we feel it.
Is there any connection between the literary character and the Romanian voivode, Vlad The Impaler who managed to keep the Ottoman Empire at bay in the sixteenth century? Maybe. They are both very powerful men and Vlad is mentioned even now by people in Romania as a hero, whom we would welcome anytime to come back and put things right in the country.
During his time, his reputation as a just and decisive leader was so strong, that public fountains had golden cups (no one would dare to steal them) and no honest person would starve or lack a roof over their head.
How do you know something or someone is really real?
I am looking forward to the talk this Saturday in Dublin, as part of the Bram Stoker Festival, where a variety of people will be trying to search for meanings into one of the most fascinating characters, which have inspired so many people and who, in my opinion, for that reason alone, is as real as one can be.
Note: If you find yourselves in Avignon, France, make sure to go and see the night show at the Pope’s Palace (some of the photos are taken there) … and ask yourselves what is reality?
…that’s how I met Cristiana, who had just arrived at Vama Veche beach, on the shores of the Black Sea.
This is the collection of seven photographs I submitted to the Street Fashion Photography Award during the VSLO Festival 2014.
…what a way to say good bye to the summer.
Why do I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders?
It’s light when I clothe my soul in a different skin.
It’s light when I burst into blooms of colors and scent.
Why can we only love what we see, but fail to see when we love?
A night of weary thoughts rushes in through my pores, and it’s not the darkness I fear, but the fear itself.
Why do I feel the weight of time on my shoulders? Or more likely the lack of time that presses down ever so slowly, and ever so fast like the night pressing down on the setting sun.
It’s light and I’ve been awake in my dreams. It’s time to fall back into the sleep of reality again until I convince fear to see me.
Since my first experience, about ten years ago, of an eight-course tasting menu at the Tasting Room restaurant in Franschhoek, South Africa – a much more interesting area to visit by the way, than its rival Stellenbosch – I believe this is the way food should be presented if the intention is to show the skills behind the creations on the plate.
A restaurant is a place where I expect a culinary experience, even a sensatory journey – I have my own kitchen or the market if I am simply looking for food.
No better way to encourage one to pay attention to the multitude of tastes, colors and flavors than knowing that you only have two or three mouthfuls of a serving that took hours in preparation and the work of a whole team of people.
In contrast, with a full plate in front, we tend to move our attention to conversation, checking our phones, or anything else – by the simple fact that there is more, we tend to take it for granted. Whereas when a nibble or two is all we have, we start looking for the different ingredients by waking up the taste buds, we are stretching time by being in that moment, paying attention to what we feel when flavors stir things inside.
We are actually adding years to our lives, not only because we learn to be picky about what we eat, but also because we get to discover that we actually might love foods we never thought we would – when the combinations are right.
I confess, I cannot think of many blends I would not try if set in front of me by a chef, and I have become impatient and unforgiving with the lazy approach of some establishments – grill the fish and call it ‘a classic.’
So over the course of two days in Belfast, I explored the city’s renewed energy of encouraging creativity on the culinary scene and I was more than impressed with the Ox restaurant and the Malt Room. I hope the city gives them enough credit for putting it on the gourmet international map. Here are some highlights.
‘Truffled egg yolk, cauliflower, crispy chicken skin – cauliflower becomes center stage as it the ingredient that lifts up the palate while the egg yolk and the truffles make a strong statement (OX)
If you thought squid is not your thing, think twice as the presentation and the tenderness is remarkable and the presence of chorizo flavor and the romanesco textures gives this dish a more complex dimension – Squid, chorizo, romanesco, squid ink, oyster (OX)
If it’s chocolate, it must be dark chocolate. And I savored the desert with even more pleasure as the flavor of the ice cream brought me back to my childhood when I always loved the remaining crust on the bottom of the pot where milk had been boiled – Valrhona chocolate 70%, banana, burnt milk ice-cream (OX)
A rainbow of colors and Provençale flavors in a dish of Mackerel (undeservingly underestimated fish), stuffed with olives and served with red caviar. Ok, you have to like fish and love olives…but how can one wouldn’t? (Malt Room)
Finally an interesting and healthy meat dish in Belfast – kid goat, locally sourced, slow-cooked, tender and moist, with a crusty pie pouring out a volcano of goat cheese and goat meat. Even if you had never read Coehlo’s Alchemist, images of herds of goats still come to mind, or more likely the evenings around the fire. (Malt Room)
Maybe it’s because I could live on pistachio nuts but I can say the desert is memorable at the Malt Room: Roast pear, pistachio, buttermilk and Nougatine parfait. Parfait!
In my humble opinion, a restaurant without a tasting menu is not serious about food as a form of art or as a means to offer a memorable experience – less is more.
As the proof is in the pudding, try it for yourself and prove me wrong….or right.
When my husband, Sean, suggested that I put together a collection of my photographs around the theme ‘Love is…’ I started to look at my photos looking for love. Looking for love or the lack of it, in sunsets and flowers and the buildings in Paris or in the ferocity of the sea on a stormy day in Donegal. Sometimes love was so obvious in the most unexpected shots – like this one, of my dog Siog (left), who I am sure was in love with this stranger for the first time, as I had never seen her look at a dog like this.
I also discovered the lack of love in some of the photos and I could almost feel the coldness in some of them, crying out for lack of it.
I know that we have heard or read too often that love is everywhere and most often we expect to find it just among us, humans, as if love owes us. But why do we have such a hard time to find it sometimes? Is it because we are looking for it in all the wrong places? Or are we even really looking for it, further than a smile, a hug or a kiss from the other half?
So I decided that for a while, I will be looking for love when I frame my photos, be that I will focus on humans or dogs or sunsets (I am too lazy to wake up for the sunrise) or a piece of concrete. Umberto Eco once wrote that you can connect anything to anything if you only try, so is it that easy to connect with love?
To see more of my photos – Here