Easter weekend was a great time to bug outta town (again, some more) for a long weekend with our pal Snooker. Berlin welcomed us with these pretty trees all over town. Here are the photos. Click to embiggen.
After that stunning — but chilling — visit to Iceland the first week of November, we knew we’d need a little dose of sun and warmth before diving into the long, dark winter. We came back for basically a weekend at home in Regensburg before turning around and departing for Porto.
Airport / Transport
I thought we were just lucky with the place that Sarah picked out for us, but upon closer inspection of the subway schematic, it’s easy to get to much of Porto from the airport with few or no Umstiege. As it turned out, our place was smack in the middle between two stops along the Stammstrecke (man, is there a name for that in English?). For all that simplicity, it was still kind of hard to understand what kind of ticket to buy for what kind of travel (3-day pass, all-day, one-way, short hop, multi-zone?). A kind soul of a security guard at the airport metro kiosks pointed out that we were likely buying tickets way overblown for what we needed, and we should go talk to the woman over there (behind a little podium which looked nothing like a ticket counter) to get more appropriate ones.
Thomaz Palace Apartment
View from our window
Sarah found us a gem of an apartment. We paid less than 70€ a night.
- 2nd story apartment with elevator
- whole building was only 4 months old after recent renovations
- nicely equipped kitchen
- pleasant shower
- excellent location regarding public transit, bakeries, mini/super/regular markets
The only complaint might have been somewhat flaky wifi; it disconnected our devices frequently.
Pasteis de Nata class
A pal, occasional travel buddy, and fellow Portophile recommended a Pasteis de Nata baking course she took through AirBnB. Since we couldn’t stop eating these wonderful custard tarts every morning while in Lisbon on a previous trip, we thought it important to at least learn how to make them on our own. That way, if a craving strikes at home in Regensburg, we
- don’t have to leave the country, and
- do at least have to commit to the effort of making them
Going to be in Porto? Like to bake in a mixed-skill-level (both baking and ESL) environment? Take the course. It was a great way to spend a morning.
Meat, Fish, Sandwiches
Alheira in various forms
Eat some of this sausage while you are in Portugal! There’s a fascinating socio-cultural-political origin story waiting for you there. For our last night in Porto, we ate at Tabafeira, a restaurant that specializes in modern remixes of the dish.
Don’t tell your cardiologist about this one. Beef, pork, sausage, cheese, a little bread, beer sauce, and maybe even a fried egg under that top cheese layer, and a side of french fries will make your health insurance premiums go up. This “sandwich” is native to Porto, after a transplant was inspired by the croque-monsieur. There are countless variations on this theme. Do not try them all. But for the not-yet-hard-of-artery you can take a course on making these from the same docent offering the Pasteis de Nata course.
It’s dried, salted cod. It’s everywhere. We saw a lot of it in Porto from Icelandic waters. It’s almost like they were following us. Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bacalhau
Douro Valley / Wine stuff
This is the origin of port wine, from back when the British were trying to get good European red wine without having to deal with France. I wonder what innovations are in store this time around.
We booked an all-day excursion — also through AirBnB. Fortunately the meeting point was quite close to our Ferienwohnung. We rode in a van with about 10 other tourists about an hour north and east, headed inland, up one side of the Douro valley and down the other. We got some hillside views and took a short boat ride, admiring the vineyards on both sides before taking a winery tour, and getting lunch at a fancy place with plenty (too much, really) of excellent local food and wine.
This was the worst weather of the trip, which meant a lot of gray and brown landscapes under dark skies. It didn’t detract from the less visual parts of the tour — those things were great. But the scenery would have been dazzling with a little sun.
So instead, we made the most of some indoor wine appreciation. We booked a tour of Graham’s Port Lodge, with some sampling and bottles to be shipped back home.
We had a lovely time just walking around exploring on foot, both day and night. Here are some of our favorite shots.
Porto in mid-November was a really nice time and place to stave off the onset of winter. Let us know in the comments what attractions we missed so that we can follow up on them in our future plans. We’d love to go back.
Day 4: South Shore
It felt significantly warmer on this, our last day of adventure in Iceland. Unfortunately, that meant also it rained cats and dogs. Really would have loved my rain pants here. It was too warm for the ski pants but not dry enough for just jeans.
Reynisdrangar rock formations and hexagonal basalt cliff wallsContinue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 4
We met my parents, sister and brother-in-law halfway: in Iceland. We finally managed to get the six of us together on vacation in the same place, scratch off another country on our list (and crack into Scandinavia along with it), and see some really cool (and cold) stuff.
We opted for a travel company’s package instead of doing all these things ourselves:
- accommodations and breakfast
- car rental and driving
- admissions, scheduling
- POI-selection based on weather, etc.
We had a limited amount of time and the travel agency packed in quite a lot to see for the time available. I don’t think we could have done that better than they did. But that also meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Was it worth it? Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 1
While in Porto on vacation this month, we took a class on baking Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart we fell in love with in Lisbon a few years ago. This recipe is originally from our course instructor as part of the class, with our own notes and adaptations added.
- stand mixer with kneading hook, or a hand mixer with beaters (be prepared to knead by hand in that case)
- rolling pin you can use to whomp on the butter through the dough
- 2 sauce pans
Makes a double batch of puff pastry, about 20-24 cupcake-sized pasteis shells in total.
* 500 g flour
* 250 ml water
* 250 g unsalted butter, chilled
Notes on Dough Ingredients
- In the class we actually used margarine. Our instructor, Joana, explained that it works better than butter under less-than-optimal conditions, like at normal room temperature, or when you’re not rolling the dough out on a marble countertop. I’m thinking about making this dough outside on the patio next time.
- Joana didn’t specify the amount of salt. Our first batch at home was with a half-teaspoon, and it didn’t seem like enough.
- Combine flour, water, and salt in a stand mixer with a kneading attachment and knead for 4-5 minutes. Alternatively, combine and then knead by hand for 10 minutes. You want a soft, not-very-sticky dough, that springs back at you when you poke it. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes after kneading.
- Roll out the dough on a large floured surface in as cool a place as possible. We opened our doors and windows (in November!) to drop the room temperature down to about 15,5 °C and that seemed to help. You want a rectangular shape, about 45 cm in the long dimension, with the dough a half-centimeter thick. Put the block of chilled butter (perhaps cut it into two skinny squares) in the middle of your rolled-out dough and fold the edges of the dough over it, like you’re wrapping up a present (and you are — the butter is the present to yourself).
- Beat the heck out of that butter-wrapped-in-dough package with your rolling pin. You want to flatten the butter inside its doughy sleeping bag. Try to maintain the rectangle shape; rotate the dough 90° every few whomps with the rolling pin. Sprinkle flour to cover up any spots where the butter might be leaching through. If the butter has warmed up during this process, stop and refrigerate your dough and don’t proceed until the butter is cold again.
- Fold it again, this time in thirds, like you’re mailing a letter of confession to your cardiologist. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes. Roll it out again to the rectangular shape. Do this at least two more times. On the last roll-out, sprinkle a little water onto the surface of the dough and then smooth it around with your hands.
- Starting on the long side of your rectangle, roll up the dough like it’s a treasure map (it is) you’re going to stuff into a bottle and set adrift on the open sea. Stop rolling when you get about half way and cut the roll away from the remaining flat dough. Put that roll aside in your freezer for another batch of natas. Roll up the remaining half of the dough in the same way.
- Cut the dough roll into about 1-inch segments. Each segment will become one pastel. Take a segment of the roll, rotate it onto its side (so the the layers inside the roll are visible to you), and with wet thumbs and fingers, squish the segment into the cupcake pan, drawing the dough up the sides of the cupcake mold from the center of the segment with your thumbs. It’s OK to have thinner pastry coverage at the bottom; you want it to be thicker around the edge at the top.
200 g Sugar
175 ml water
1 lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick
17-20g corn starch (more starch = stiffer custard)
25 g Flour
250 ml Milk
5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water, lemon zest and cinnamon stick. Let it come to boil in at medium heat. You don’t have to stir (much). Just let it come to a healthy boil.
- When it starts boiling, count 1 minute and remove from heat. Set it aside.
- In another pan, first combine flour and corn starch and then add the milk. Whisk it before putting it onto the stove. Cook the milk, flour and starch on low heat, always whisking.
- When the texture thickens, take it off the stove. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon stick from the infused syrup you made and discard them. Gently, add the syrup to the milk, whisking it until it’s fully combined. Let it rest a little while before adding the egg yolks, tempering first.
- Whisk everything together, pass it through a strainer (if you didn’t temper the eggs effectively and have scrambled bits) and pour it into the dough cups, about 3/4 of the way full.
You want it as hot as your (home) oven can go. We get ours up to over 250 °C. Make sure it has plenty of time to preheat — at least 30 minutes. We turned the convection fan on for the bake. Ours were done after about 12 minutes of bake time. Don’t touch them while they’re baking, and try to let them cool a little before you put them in your mouth. They should pop out of your cupcake pan quite easily (thank you butter!) once they’ve cooled a bit. You can sprinkle them with sugar, cinnamon, both, or nothing.
This is quickly becoming a tradition for us. Continue reading Kulinarische Weinwanderung Freinsheim die Vierte
The upgrade from 14.04 LTS to 16.04 LTS a few years ago was unproblematic, as I recall. So I was hoping this latest upgrade would go smoothly. It did not.
TL;DR: 3 big problems came up, but were fixable, thanks to solutions and ideas published by earlier adopters.
First I did the upgrade on my Kubuntu computer, a full-tower desktop machine which is also getting long in the tooth. That upgrade was slow, but mostly due to the WiFi situation upstairs in the home office. The throughput is not great, but good enough for work. After the slowness of that upgrade, everything else seemed to run pretty smoothly — just a few config file questions for me answer and it did everything else by itself.
So I set about upgrading my 2007 Mac mini from Ubuntu 16.04 to 18.04, and was quite pleased with the download speeds (duh…it’s connected directly the cable modem via ethernet). After the downloads completed in a third of the time or less, a quick reboot and I’d be in business. Or so I thought. I encountered one problem after another. Fortunately, others found these problems before me and published them. I am paying it forward for you here.
It would hang on the startup screen and never let me log in. I mostly run this box headless, but every now and again I like a GUI for it. So I googled.
There’s some incompatibility between Wayland and the GNOME desktop manager and the integrated graphics card on my Mac mini’s motherboard. Solution: fall back to Xorg instead of Wayland. Edit the
/etc/gdm3/custom.conf file and uncomment the line
After I got the display manager working, I quickly saw that no internet stuff dependent on domain names was working. Hard-coded addresses, like for the machines on my LAN, seemed to work fine. More googling led me to comment out the line:
… in the file
/etc/NetworkManger/NetworkManager.conf so as to not use the systemd DNS-stub thing from
systemd pointing to 127.0.0.53 or whatever. After a reboot, domain name resolution starting working again.
apt and $LANGUAGE in my locale
OK, DNS resolution was working again. I wanted to get the freshest versions of the packages (maybe fixing the previous problems). Reading the package lists with
sudo apt update was running extremely slowly — several minutes just to advance from 1% to 2%, whereas this part of the task is over and done with normally quite quickly. I googled some more and found something to try here:
https://askubuntu.com/questions/251781/reading-package-list-takes-forever/327444 (kinda far down on the page)
$LANGUAGE variable needs to be in the form of a two-character lower-case ISO code, like “en”. Mine had been set to something like “en_US.UTF-8” and it had never caused problems for me before. But I used
localectl set-locale LANGUAGE=en to update it, and after a new login, things were working normally again.
I wonder when that old mid-2007 Mac mini will no longer be supported by the likes of Debian and Ubuntu. 11 years later though — it’s still chugging along with maxed-out RAM and an SSD HD upgrade along the way.
Sometimes I feel like the dude in the clip below (minus the supernatural stuff, natch): I have a lot of keys, and I’m always looking for people to use them with. 1 Continue reading I’m the Keymaster. Are you the Gatekeeper?
- Thinking of you, Snooker. [↩]
On Friday, July 13th we were in London on a short vacation. By coincidence, Donald Trump was there too. We stumbled upon the protest march and found the atmosphere quite inspiring. Here are some shots of the march. Continue reading London Trump Protest