Audrey and I found the most amazing book store today within a few blocks from our hotel. It is called Alexandra Bookstore. We later learned that Alexandra is a chain of bookstores and the one we came upon is located in an Art Nouveau building that was once the Paris Department Store. The café on the third floor, Lotz-Terem, is decorated with beautiful chandeliers and a fresco-style ceiling, painted by Károly Lotz, a prominent 19th century artist of German origin who lived and worked in Budapest. I have been to many bookstores around the world and this is certainly one of the most palatial and grandiose. What’s most interesting is that bottles of wine are sold along side the books — what splendid intoxication of the senses and the mind.
Since we couldn’t read most of the books there, we browsed for a while and then had lunch in the cafe. Sitting there sipping my coffee, I felt as if I entered a time capsule of an earlier era. The atmosphere of the entire space suggests a reverence for books — I suppose reverence is not really the right word — one is simply reminded of the wonderful pleasure of reading. I am so glad that we wandered in by chance. I see myself going back there again and again in the months ahead.
In the past few days of exploring the city, I found that the people here truly appreciate their authors or at least they did. I have seen streets, restaurants, parks, and even dental buildings named after them. I have also seen bronze statues of Hungarian writers all over the city. I would google the name of a statue that I passed by and quite a few times it was an author.
Palace-like bookstores and streets named after authors — for someone who loves books, how can I not fall for this city?
After days of heavy restaurant food, Audrey and I stayed in our apartment and cooked some vegetables for dinner. Since I only have the most basic ingredients, I made this simple braised cauliflower and bell pepper with olive oil, garlic and spaghetti sauce. It’s quite delicious. There is no measuring tools in the little kitchenette. I cooked in the old fashioned way — by tasting the food until it was perfect for me.
1 small cauliflower, florets of
1 large red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
Heat olive oil on medium high. When the oil is hot, add crushed garlic and stir until aromatic. Add cauliflower and bell pepper and sauté for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add salt and continue to stir for a couple of minutes. Add water and close the lid for 3 to 5 minutes depending on how soft you like your cauliflower. If you like it on the crispy side, shorten the cook time. If your cauliflower is large, sauté in two batches. Add spaghetti sauce and stir until all liquid is absorbed. Serve immediately.