mercredi 28 mars 2012

From Paris to Berlin

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About a decade ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Paris with my mother in the springtime. We rented an  apartment opposite the Comédie Française and in the evenings I would watch the crowds gathering outside the theatre before the play was about to begin, some people obviously coming straight from work with their briefcases and stylish suits and then later when it was all over, I would open the windows to hear snippets of their conversations as they came out. One evening we even plucked up the courage to go and see Gogol's Le Réviseur in French although the experience of sitting in one of those plush red seats is somehow more vivid in my mind than the production. Every day we saw the jewel encrusted entrance to the métro station on Place Colette and walked along the columns of the Palais Royal gardens which I would later see in one of my favourite films, Charade, with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. Springtime in Paris is such a cliché but it turned out to the one of the wettest with raindrops positively bouncing off the pavement as we ran for shelter in Brentano's bookshop. In those days I didn't cook much and only have a few memories of what we ate: an onion soup I made in the apartment, coffee in the Deux Magots served by the rudest waiter, an exceptional tarte à l'orange eaten in the Luxembourg Gardens and most of all, croissants filled with goats cheese made by my mum that last morning, hearts filled with regret to be leaving. We ate them in the gardens on Ile de la Cité under the watchful gaze of Henri IV after a walk around the islands.

I'm telling you all of this because I spent one of the nicest weeks in Berlin when my mum visited me recently.
Our first walk together took place on the greyest of days through the bare branches of Treptower Park and I regretted not taking my scarf as the cool breeze blew through my winter coat. Chilled after more than an hour outside, I was happy to return to the café close to the Allianz building where they served the biggest piece of blueberry streuselkuchen I've ever seen.

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Cyclists stopped to take pictures of the Molecule Man on the river Spree and couples kissed in front of the part of the East Side Gallery in hommage to Honecker and Brezhnev.

There were the quiet moments at home, watching John le Carré's A Perfect Spy and eating homemade soup, mornings in museums, surrounded by groups of schoolchildren in the Pergammom and wandering through the deserted rooms of the Gemäldegalerie where I thought of Thomas Bernhard's Alte Meister.

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The sky was turning a delicate shade of pink as we looked down from the Kulturforum towards Potsdamer Platz. In Va Piano we perched on high stools and watched the passers-by until the pizza with spinach and cream was ready and afterwards regretted not having room for dessert. But we returned a few days later for tiramisù and strawberry cream.

At the ladies' night preview of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the woman in front of me talked about running an 8 minute mile and I found myself wondering what had brought the big group of Americans to Berlin and whether they would stay here for long.

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They had run out of spinach tart at the Kleines Schloss restaurant in Babelsberg but the delicate flavours of the carrot and ginger one were just perfect.Others sat outside by the river eating ice cream and suddenly it seemed like summer.

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That last morning a stiff breeze blew us in the direction of Bellevue through the Tiergarten and we stopped for elevenses at the Kaisersaal where they serve a perfect German cheesecake with quark and a truly decadent Sachertorte. I wondered how a whole week could go by so fast and realised there is no worse feeling than finding yourself travelling back from the airport late and night and alone.

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Perhaps the nicest thing about my mum's visit was being able to enjoy a nice and relaxed breakfast every morning. Red berry muesli with a chopped banana, rye bread with butter and orange and ginger jam, fresh blueberries, mugs of café au lait and bowls of plain yoghurt. I even made some banana bread one morning which tastes great alone or with a little butter at breakfast time or for afternoon tea with delicately whipped cream.

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Banana bread (from Meine Familie und ich - March edition)

For a loaf tin, around 30 cm long.


400g plain flour
200g ground almonds
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 very ripe bananas
60ml sunflower oil
125g brown sugar
3 eggs
200ml buttermilk

1. Grease and line your loaf tin and preheat the oven to 180° or 160° for fan assisted ovens.
2. Mix the flour, almonds, bicarb, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
3. Peel the bananas and mash them with a fork. Beat the oil, sugar, eggs and buttermilk together, either by hand or with a hand mixer and add to the flour mixture. Stir until fully incorporated. Add the mashed bananas and stir again. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and smooth the top.
4. Bake the banana bread in the oven for 60-70 minutes. If necessary, cover the top with foil after 30 minutes to prevent it from browning too much. When it's ready, remove the bread from the oven, leave to cool and then remove from the tin. It keeps for a few days in an airtight container and also freezes well.

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To finish this already long post, I'd like to tell you that those nice people from the Meininger hotel are offering you the chance to win a night in their really cool hotel and two free tickets to visit the Historiale Museum. I don't normally promote products and am not getting paid to do so here but when they wrote to me about this, I liked the idea that some of my readers might get a chance to come to my home city and of course, we could meet somewhere for coffee and cake. Full details can be found on this page and all you have to do is answer a really simple question which you can find the answer to by going on this page. The competition ends on 30th March. so get cracking!

20 commentaires:

  1. What a very sweet post. Warmed me to the core. We ate banana bread with peanut butter this morning. Your loaf looks amazing--all plump and quake. My latest was flat, but the flavor there.

  2. Good to hear that you had a lovely time with your mother! Thanks for sharing your wonderful pictures with us. A delightful post, as always. Very sping-like and fresh.

    The bread looks beautiful! The texture is perfect.



  3. What a beautiful and sweet post! Very nice pictures, as always.
    We enjoy to see Berlin through your photos.

  4. Un billet tres zen, tres serein.
    (zut, j'ai envie d'un bluberry streusel maintenant).

  5. @Tracy - It's so nice to hear that! Also I love the idea of you having banana bread for breakfast as well. I've had so many cakes turn out flat but they normally still taste great.
    @Rosa - Thanks dear friend. I feel very lucky to have such a close relationship with my mum and hope she can come again in May once more before I leave.
    @Michela - Thanks so much, I'm glad I can help you to discover the city a little.
    @Gracienne - Je suis super contente que ca te plaise :-) Je pensais aussi qu'il fallait avoir une recette pour le streusel plutôt que le banana bread. En Allemagne les streuselkuchen sont souvent délicieux.

  6. You seem to have such a comfortable relationship with your mother, perfect travel companions. So lovely.

  7. You've made me miss my mom. I haven't seen her since early September...

    It seems that you have a very close relationship with yours!

    Lovely cake, Emily Vanessa.
    Your photos are as beautiful as ever!

  8. wonderful.
    i hope my daughter and i have such a lovely relationship when she's all grown.
    i have berlin on my top places i want to visit in europe.

  9. Oh my, I cannot imagine anything more perfect than the week you described. What a wonderful way to spend time with your mother. The photos are beautiful, I miss Berlin.

  10. As always, your photos are luminous. Thank you for showing us Berlin.

  11. So lovely you had such a wonderful time with your mother. Did it make you see Berlin through her eyes?
    I remember visiting Paris when my daughter was living there and I just loved sitting at her window watching the street below.

  12. I have to say that the entrance to Place Colette and the bay along Palais Royale would be two of my many favourite places in Paris. It is a walker's city really , isn't it?

    I absolutely love your photographs...they make me nostalgic.

  13. @Denise - Yes, it's lucky that we both love exploring cities on foot, large mugs of coffee and museums. We're off to Paris for a couple of days together next week and then she'll pay me a final visit at the end of May.
    @Magda - It must be hard no having seen your mum for so long. I hadn't seen mine since Christmas yet it still felt quite long and I wished she lived in Berlin. It's now her favourite city so she wishes that too! She doesn't send me cheese in the post though...
    @Monica - I hope you and your daughter will always be close. Berlin is one of the best cities so you should definitely come and visit - I like spring and autumn the best.
    @P.K - It's true, everything was just perfect - the weather, the museums, the walks - but of course the time just flew by. I can't believe I have so little time left here before I pack up and leave myself.
    @Allison - Thanks so much for following! I haven't been writing so often and am grateful to my loyal readers to having patience with me. Hope you're having a lovely spring.
    @Barbara - Yes absolutely, it really made the city come alive for me and discovered so many good things. Funnily, that's what my mum also loved, looking down at the street below and the children playing in the park opposite.
    @Amrita - That's the big difference between Paris and Berlin as the former, as you say, really is a walker's city and I love that whereas here the distances are simply huge between the landmarks. I love the 1er arrondissement so much, especially those two things and I hope to see them again soon.

  14. Moi aussi je déteste ramener quelqu'un au train ou à l'aéroport dans la nuit et rentrer seule... c'est horriblement triste! Mais quelle chance et quelle joie d'avoir eu ta mère avec toi ces quelques jours: mes parents ne m'ont pas encore fait l'honneur d'une seule visite... pas une en trois ans!!!

  15. Ah, oui, c'est vraiment affreux. Heureusement ils ont changer l'horaire pour l'ete a 16 heures, c'est beaucoup plus agreable. Jusqu'a recemment mes parents etaient comme les tiens, ils ne sont venus qu'une seule fois a Lyon et pas du tout en Allemagne. Mais apres leur visite a Berlin l'annee derniere, ma mere est si epatee de la ville qu'elle a vraiment hate d'y revenir aussitot que possible. Pour mon pere qui a du mal a marcher, c'est un peu trop grande et fatigante mais il aime aussi rester a la maison pour regarder le sport et boire de la biere.

  16. Sounds like you have a really nice relationship with your mother.

  17. Hope you're okay Emily Vanessa. Came here in the hopes of seeing a post that I perhaps, somehow missed....

  18. I've never had my mother, but I have a similar relationship (so far) with my daughter ;)
    I hope you can see her more often in Berlin !
    I have pinned your banana bread recipe (linked to your blog of course) because this is where I keep some delicious baking recipes all ready for action in my kitchen ! and i will soon bake that bread ! red velvet cupcakes are already scheduled for tomorrow :)
    I love the way you share your trips in photo, be it neighborhood or further away !

  19. Oh, your comment has made my day. I feel very honoured at the idea of my banana bread in your kitchen, although I'm now dreaming of those red vlevet cupcakes, something I've always wanted to make but have never got around to. My mum is coming again in three weeks and I feel very excited already. The city looks so lovely and green now and I have many things planned for us to do. That's the best thing about visitors - the fact that they make you discover your own city in the new way. For me you don't have to travel far to see interesting things, the journey can be right on your doorstep.

  20. so good to hear this (another visit of your Mom) !

    I baked the bread tonight. I only had two bananas left (my husband had stolen one !) so i djusted the rest of the recipe. I like the fact there are ground almonds because this reduces the barbs for my diabetic daughter. I replace 1/5 of the flour I used by cornstarch (it is usually supossed to make the dought even lighter) anyway it came out moist & fragrant, and is ready for breakfast tomorrow morning. thank you !