Happy Spring! The earth laughs in flowers!

Since it’s the first day of spring today, I thought it’d be the perfect occasion to have a blog post with tons of flower photos.  Last Easter my mum came to visit me in The Netherlands and Keukenhof was on the top of the places-to-visit list.

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Keukenhof basically translates to kitchen (keuken) and “garden” (hof), and in 15C it used to be countess Jacoba van Beiren’s garden for growing herbs, while her nearby castle was used as a hunt lodge.  Today Keukenhof is a grand flower exhibition full of tulips, hyacinths and narcissi, etc.  Just imagine flower galore.

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You might be thinking that it’s bit touristy to visit a tulip garden in Holland, but being there twice myself I must say I really enjoyed it both times.  The first time I was there I visited as a tourist and I was just so blown away – Picture-perfect Holland with windmills overlooking stretches of colourful flower fields in full bloom.  Indeed, I loved it as a tourist.  The second time I was there I was more of a local expat, still loved it.  But this time besides enjoying the sheer beauty of the flowers, what I enjoyed even more was the variety.  Young tourist-me just found all the flowers beautiful, but “seasoned” local expat me realized that some of the tulips were “artisan” tulips that were quite rare and were not everyday tulips that you’d come across at the local supermarket or Saturday flower market.

More photos below the cut.

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What & where to eat in Copenhagen, Denmark

The last week I’ve been watching the Swedish crime drama series “The Bridge”.  It’s really suspenseful, and at the start of each season the place of crime begins at the Øresund Bridge, which connects Copenhagen, Denmark to Malmö.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

My boyfriend took this picture on a more recent trip in 2015.

Anyway, watching this series made me think of Copenhagen, one of my favourite places to visit, and today I’m going to share with you some really nice places to eat/dine at, which were

Recommended by Danish locals:

I was visiting Denmark for work, and later in the weekend I went to Copenhagen for a short weekend to see my friend Siri in May 2013.  Siri was basically our food guide and took us to places where she usually ate with her friends.

The first place she took us to was:

1. Torvehallerne food hall for smørrebrød

Torvehallerne is a food hall in pretty central Copenhagen, and it has over 60 stalls with a variety of everything delicious you can imagine – meat, dairy, produce, pastries!  Honestly it is a food paradise for feasting your eyes and stomach.

For us it was lunch time and Siri recommended that we try smørrebrød, because they are traditionally Danish.  You can kind of describe them as “open sandwiches” with rye bread and toppings like roast beef, fried onions, eggs, prawn, pickled herring, etc.  So delicious and I’d only I had a bigger stomach to try all the different varieties of toppings.

Torvehallerne Copenhagen Smørrebrød

Having smørrebrød at the Torvehallerne food hall in Copenhagen

After some sightseeing around  the city we stopped at:

 2. Lagkagehuset for coffee & Danish pastries

Lagerhuset is a coffee/pastry chain that you will come across many times in the city.  You can get coffee, bread, sandwiches & salads, and oh my gosh, all these pastries!!  My favourite was the spandauer, which is a classic flaky, crispy and fluffy Danish pastry with a soft center filled with (I think the one I had was a custard filling), then drizzled with icing and some almond shavings.  Sorry I forgot to take photos, but seriously just go there to treat yourself.

Lagkaghuset Coffee Pastry Shop

In the afternoon we popped into a pub to catch up over drinks.  When I’m travelling abroad, I usually like to try the local craft beers.  Siri recommended:

3. Fynsk Forår 

I’m not a beer expert, but I found this  white beer very enjoyable.  It was light, and had a nice, subtle flowery-scent to it.  I think the pub we went to was Ølbaren on Elmegade.  I could be wrong, but I quickly looked it up again and apparently it is recommended for their wide range of beer selection.  Whether or not it is the actually the small cozy place I visited it sounds worth a visit.  Before leaving Copenhagen, I picked up a big bottle of the Fynsk Forår at the supermarket as a souvenir 🙂

Fynsk Forår

4.  Mother for great pizzas

Finally for dinner Siri recommended us this Italian restaurant, Mother, in the meatpacking district, for their amazing pizzas.  It is a very popular place and we were tipped off to make a reservation.

I must guiltily admit that although we had made a reservation we ended up not going there … I just remember not feeling up for pizza after all that evening and just wandered off to another restaurant in the meatpacking district, which by the way had tons of hip and trendy restaurants & bars.  The other restaurant that we went too (forgot the name) was also very good and served great organic dishes and beers.

Besides these places I would also recommend going for brunch because Scandinavians are great brunch enthusiasts!  I really enjoyed Copenhagen and I look forward to visiting in the near future.  I keep praising the food I had in Copenhagen, but truly I believe Nordic cuisine in general should deserve even more credit.  From my experience,  Nordic cuisine really embraces fresh, organic, and local, and for me that’s how I like my food to be.

Dreaming of warmer days in Nicosia, Cyprus

Wind, rain, cold, repeat… This is November sweater weather.  Winter is not even here yet but I can only dream of warmer and sunny days.

I took this photo in Nicosia, Cyprus in September.  Nicosia being the capital city of Cyprus, is also the last “divided capital”.  The southern part is of the Republic of Cyprus and the northern part is Turkish.  There is a checkpoint for border crossing where visitors have to show their passports.  This photo was taken on the northern side of Nicosia.  I miss the colours and the sun!  Wish I could just jump into the picture and have a drink on the terrace.

Cyprus

Why you should dine at this Parisien restaurant with mediocre food and mediocre service

When I visited Paris a few weeks ago, I made sure I had insider tips to make the most of my 2.5 day trip.  I was recommended the Le Bouillon Chartier by two friends.  One of them was my old flatmate Guillaume who is French and has lived in Paris himself, and said this would be the place to get authentic French food for a decent price in the centre of Paris.  Merci beaucoup!  Well, what Guillaume told me was true, but he certainly left out some “fun” details for us to find out on our own…

Le Bouillon Chartier Paris

We got off the metro at Richelieu – Drouot and quickly found Le Bouillon Chartier around corner. You won’t miss it because outside there is always a queue. I think we arrived at around 8ish, and after waiting for about 40 minutes we were ushered into another queue around the corner.  You can finally see the entrance, so close but yet so far away!

Le Bouillon Chartier

At this point my boyfriend was getting grumpy, and I was thinking… please please please I hope the food is amazing to justify for all this waiting. Finally we get into the restaurant and it looked super cozy and so beautiful!

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Then things started to, well let’s say things took an unexpected turn…

We were seated at a table, and the waiter told us to hang our coats on the overhead shelves.  Next thing we know we saw two strangers seated beside us.  Not as in the table beside us, but literally sitting next to us at the same table.  Then the waiter just threw out four pieces of folded paper onto the table, which happened to be the menu.  My boyfriend and I just looked at each in confusion, and decided to ask our “dinner party” (who were two French locals, a father and his son) what was going on…

Our French dinner guest, looking puzzled at our confusion, asked:

Do you know about this place?   

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It’s not a Sunday until you waste it completely then start feeling really sad around 8pm

Well, thank goodness we changed the clocks this weekend to go back an hour so now it’s actually only 7pm.  I took these photos in my neighbourhood just 2 weekends ago, and already there’s a quite a change… the trees are pretty much naked now!

It’s been very busy since I came back from Paris last weekend, and this week I’m going to Marrakech!  Lots of exciting things going on, and I hope to sort out all my pictures asap, so do check back for updates!

Paris, someday is TODAY!

I’ve never been to Paris. I know… I’ve travelled to Europe numerous times before ‘settling’ down, and during the last five years I’ve been living in Europe, I’ve never been to Paris.

I’ve always avoided going to Paris because I worried about not having enough time and money to go, see, do, eat everything. And if I don’t have a good experience, then the pristine image of the French capital would be forever ruined for me… I don’t want that!

Well, I’m going to Paris for work, so now I have to go.

I’m going to Paris, not

but really today!

Thursday and Friday will be for work. Then I have the weekend off for myself and my boyfriend. I think I’ve done enough homework for this trip. I’ve taken notes from the pages of my Eyewitness Paris Top 10, I’ve interviewed 3 different friends who have lived in Paris for insider tips, I’ve quickly reviewed how to conjugate verbs in my Easy French Grammar handbook, and I’ve watched Midnight in Paris and Paris Je t’aime respectively 3 times.

I think I’m prepared. I’m feeling both nervous and excited. Will return after the weekend and looking forward to sharing my Parisian adventures!

Au-revoir!

Confessions #1a of an Expat

A few nights ago I was catching up with an old childhood friend.  Facebook has kept us somewhat in the loop about each other’s lives but we really have not had a proper chat since 2006 (that’s 9 years ago!).  My friend Crystal told me about expat life as an accountant in the US, and I told her about my expat life working as an academic the Netherlands.  And while sharing stories with Crystal, I realized that it has definitely been a journey with ups-and-downs since moving abroad 5 years ago.  So today I share a few personal confessions about the things I found, and to some degree still find challenging, about being an expat in the Netherlands.

The beautiful city of Utrecht, where I have been living for the last 3 years.

The beautiful city of Utrecht, where I have been living for the last 3 years.

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