The Paris Trip

The bf and I have always wanted to go to Paris, but it just was one of those trips that never got around to being planned. We found some reasonably priced tickets to Paris and we decided to get them.

Paris was, magical. It’s on the same level as Venice, to me, at least. That’s how nice it is.

First things first – Paris is huge. We always travel with the knowledge that we cannot see and do everything on our list and that’s fine. But you know, with Paris, I was a wee bit disappointed with how many things we had to strike off our list and postpone for another trip. We didn’t go to the Eiffel Tower because we didn’t want to queue. Effectively we only had Saturday to Tuesday in Paris and we were back to work on Wednesday morning so we figured we’d do the less popular places and just wander around the city and get a feel of it. The best part about living in Norway is that Paris is only a 2.5-hours flight away so we’ll go again. I’m quite sure of it as it’s always been a travel pattern the bf and I have – repeatedly visit cities we can’t seem to get enough of.

Arc du Triomphe

Arc du Triomphe

Boulevard Haussmann

Boulevard Haussmann

I wasn’t really interested in shopping at Boulevard Haussmann, i.e. Printemps and Galeries Lafayette because I’ve already shopped a lot this year. We walked in and did a quick round Printemps and then we got “lost” in Ladurée. Oh my goodness, if you’ve never eaten a macaron at Ladurée – you need to. I won’t lie, it is hyped, but it’s quite delicious. I have walked past the Ladurée branch in Covent Garden, London a few times and told myself that it’ll just be something sweet that I’ll regret eating once I know how many calories are in it; but in Paris I just couldn’t resist. I feel the regular macarons (at least the ones I’ve tried in Norway) seem to taste very sugary, compared to the Ladurée ones. The macaron shell texture is amazing and the flavours like salted caramel, coffee, vanilla and lemon were amazing. The bf and I brought back a few small boxes home for ourselves and for our colleagues at work. They loved it too. I think the bf and I ate macarons for dessert for about 5 days in a row. It was kind of our plan, to eat a bit of it so we’ll get tired of it and won’t miss it till the next time we encounter a Ladurée store. I think it has worked well, so far 🙂

Around Avenue des Ternes

Around Avenue des Ternes

Around Avenue des Ternes

Around Avenue des Ternes

We stayed at Charles de Gaulle Etoile and walked around this area a bit. Charles de Gaulle Etoile the star shaped plaza where Arc de Triomphe is standing in the centre. There are some nice cafes and restaurants around here. One of it is Lateral where I had a delicious vegetarian linguine dish here. The ambience of this cafe is really pleasant especially after a long day of walking.

Pharmacie

Pharmacie

Ahh, French Pharmacies: One of the things I love most about Paris. The sheer number of pharmacies! I think I popped into four different pharmacies to get some French skincare products. It was way too much fun. I had brought almost nothing with me on the trip so that I would have enough space in my luggage to carry back all the bottles. In retrospect it was a wise decision. I got a few bottles of Bioderma Crealine, some Caudalie shower gels and some La Roche-Posay Lipikar body lotion.

Around the city

Around the city

It’s interesting how Paris looks so classy. I’m constantly impressed by how expensive some of the buildings look. The buildings and their grandeur probably cost a hundreds of years ago, when they were built. That said, I can only imagine how much it must cost these days to maintain them.

The Bf :)

The Bf 🙂

The Bf, despite being from Germany, has never been to Paris before. But he has learned French at school, so I kind of just tagged along with him. He worried about our train tickets and taxi stops, while I just daydreamed and walked around with huge eyes.

Around the Louvre

Around the Louvre

We spent a good three hours in the Louvre. It’s such a beautiful museum. I’m easily distracted, but I managed to walk around the Louvre for 3 hours without feeling bored at all. We bought an additional ticket to gain entry to view the Raphael exhibition. It was beautiful. The creativity and amount of detail (writers are told to avoid ‘painstaking detail’ because it’s cliché ;)) that went into his work is astounding. The exhibition also mentioned his assistants: Romano and Penni and included some of their works. It was kind of sad that Raphael died at such a young age (37). To think, today, we often say “Life begins at 40”. As somebody who works with computers, I’m always in awe of people with artistic skills. Not that Raphael had skills, he was just, magnificent. Knowing that he had a rival, Michaelangelo, just makes him seem all the more human 🙂 The Raphael exhibition is going on until January 14, so if you happen to be in Paris from now until January, you might want to catch it.

The Louvre also has a gorgeous and very, very informative Islamic arts exhibition. It seems to be quite new (September 22 onwards) and includes the smallest item, e.g. a spoon to large mosaics that are just magical. There was a beautiful Jali screen that was from the Mughal era, that transported you to the Mughal period, right that second. We marvel so much about what is created today, but it must have been so much more difficult to create art in those days. It was also very cute how the armour that was used in some parts of India had a special type of headgear to incorporate the turbans that they wore back then.

The Louvre

The Louvre

The Bf outside the Louvre

The Bf outside the Louvre

The Louvre

The Louvre

Outside the Louvre

Outside the Louvre

The famous Louvre Pyramid

The famous Louvre Pyramid

Hotel des Invalides and Dome des Invalides

Hotel des Invalides and Dome des Invalides

I was very taken with Les Invalides. The gilded dome was just beautiful. We didn’t go into the area, but just walked around the main road on the outside, on our way back to the hotel from lunch at Le Clarisse. I’ve never experienced the kind of service at a restaurant that is provided at Le Clarisse. It’s a one of a kind fusion restaurant, from what I understand, combining French and Asian cuisine. HiP Paris has a very nice review of the restaurant here. I didn’t take any photographs as I wanted to focus purely on the food.

Now, speaking of food, another cool place we ate at was L’Office. It was a pleasant restaurant with yummy food. The restaurant itself was not very big so you had to make a reservation if you wanted to eat there. I had a seafood risotto with curry sauce, I think. I remember it being utterly divine. Here’s a nice review of the restaurant with some photographs. Again, I was trying to focus on the food, so I didn’t whip out my camera.

The thing I noticed about Paris is that it’s so busy. If you want to eat at a particular restaurant, you had to make reservations. I’ve never had to make that many reservations for restaurants in London, though. I guess it’s because food is a really big part of the French lifestyle and they really enjoy their food. I wish I could eat slower, actually. I usually rush through my food because I’m not good at sitting in one place for too long.

Near Les Invalides

Near Les Invalides

Around Les Invalides

Around Les Invalides

I think this is at the Alexandre III Bridge. I remember seeing this bridge in the movie Midnight in Paris. But I’m not 100% sure if this is where I took that photograph.

We also walked around the St Germain area. I wanted to go to the Diptyque store. It was a quaint shop that had a very nice range of colognes, candles, and room sprays. When I visit Paris again, Diptyque is definitely one of the places I’m going to stop by. I so want the 34 Blvd Saint Germain Eau de Toilette!

Me in Paris

Me in Paris

OK, so that’s me in Paris. I’m always asked why I don’t have photographs of myself when I travel. Part of the reason is the camera. I’m constantly snapping photographs. When I’m not taking photographs, I’m carrying shopping bags 🙂 Now, the other reason is the Bell’s Palsy. My left eye was still a little bit smaller than my right eye, so I haven’t been feeling very comfortable in front of the camera. Strangely, after coming back from Paris, the effects of the palsy is a lot less noticeable. My eyes are somewhat normal now and my mouth is much more symmetrical than I ever remember it to be in the past few months. It’s such a relief to know that you’re healing. I hadn’t realized that every time I brushed my teeth, I was checking my facial symmetry: the things we take for granted.

The Munich & London Trip

In June, the bf and I met up with my sister in Munich. We had planned to wander around Munich, just take in the city and then my sister would leave for London (where she had landed a week earlier) and continue her vacation before heading off back home.

Then, a few weeks before my sister was about to leave for London, I had a sudden urge to follow her to London post our Munich trip. You probably already know that I have a love-affair with London and find it very, very hard not to travel there. I also felt bad to ditch my younger sister post Munich and let her worry about packing her luggage. We also made a deal for her to pass me anything she can’t take back with her (in case her luggage ran out of space) as I was going to go home 2 weeks later. So, I bought tickets for Munich–>London and London–>Oslo, and decided to forgo my Munich–>Oslo flight.

The trips were wonderful.

Munich
I have never been to Munich beyond a few stopovers at the airport. The bf was really happy to be in Munich as he’s a big fan of Bavarian food, so much so, I think he could live off white sausage and sweet mustard.

We visited the following spots:

  • Ingolstadt Village – If you’re a shopping enthusiast, do check out Ingolstadt Village. It’s a bit out of the way as you’d have to take a train and then a bus, but it’s definitely worth it if you like bargain shopping. Most stores offer at least 20% discount on their products; if you’re lucky you can even get 40-60% discounts on the products.
  • Maximilianstraße (Maximilian street) – a huge area with all the expensive shops you can name. It’s worth a walk as it’s got a lot of charm.
  • Neuschwanstein Castle – I have so much to say about this castle. It’s such a beautiful palace but there’s a certain sense of sadness when you hear about the King for whom it was built (Ludwig II). I actually didn’t take any photographs of this castle because we had to rush to get in (it was a long hike) and cameras were forbidden for the tour inside. Here’s a photograph of what it looks like (it’s a wallpaper). Technically there are two castles when you go to Neuschwanstein – Neuschwanstein itself and Hohenschwangau. I believe, Hohenschwangau is the castle where King Ludwig II grew up in and Neuschwanstein is his dream castle. This is Hohenschwangau, it’s very simple compared to Neuschwanstein.

Hohenschwangau

A very cute statue in Hohenschwangau. I don’t know what it’s name is but it’s a man holding two swans. The man’s nose is made of gold. For some reason, tourists were rubbing his nose. I wonder if it was for luck?

My sister in front of the lion fountain

  • Viktualienmarkt – A street market in the center of Munich. If you want to experience a market where the locals buy their produce, this is the place to go. I’m told that some things are a bit more expensive (because the Leberkässemmel  was slightly more expensive here than elsewhere), since the market is a tourist attraction, but there were a lot of people buying things there anyway.
  • Schrannenhalle – A beautiful market near Viktualienmarkt, you can see some pictures of its architecture here. Schrannenhalle is a covered market with lots of exotic food stuff and cooking ingredients. You can actually find TWG (a Singaporean tea company) tea here!

A cafe in Schrannenhalle

Another cafe in Schrannenhalle

From our table in Schrannenhalle

  • Marienplatz – This is the central square in Munich. We hung around here most of the days as our hotel was nearby and we people watched (and shopped) a bit.

Marienplatz

New Town Hall at Marienplatz

  • English Garden – This was a bit of a walk, but definitely worth it. We ate traditional German beer garden food here. The bf and I had a currywurst and my sister had some roast chicken. It was good stuff.
  • Hofgarten – This is the “court” garden. It’s nearby the Residenz, where the Bavarian monarchs used to live. The garden is gorgeous. It’s one of those places where you could spend a full day – chatting, eating, reading, daydreaming – and not realize that time is passing. Facing the east of Hofgarten is the Bavarian State Chancellery. It’s such a fusion building – with the old fashioned former Army museum in the middle and the glass wings to the left and right.

The bf at Hofgarten

Bavarian State Chancellery

Then, I went to London as the bf headed back to Oslo with a heavy luggage containing my sister’s and my loot 🙂 Honestly I keep waiting for the bf to comment on this obsession of mine for shopping, but he never seems to say anything negative about it.

In London, my sister and I met up with a friend of hers who shared a hotel room with her. I have to say my sister does know how to pick nice friends. It was so comfortable sharing a hotel room with my sister’s friend. You’d think three women in a hotel room would be fighting for the bathroom and all – but no, no drama there whatsoever 🙂

Matthew, my friend of many years, had his birthday and we met him for brunch that day at Tom’s Kitchen in Somerset House. The brunch was delicious, but what was more awesome was meeting Matthew. I’ve probably written about Matthew before, but Matthew and I – we’re like chalk and cheese – yet we seem to have a fun friendship. Matthew has even been to Malaysia and stayed with my family while I was not there.

Matthew and I

Excuse my tiredness. At that point, I had already been traveling for more than a week, so let’s just say I was ‘travel-weary’.

Apart from meeting up with Matthew, we did a bit of shopping and lots of eating. Overall, it was a really nice trip. I got to spend some nice time with the bf, my sister, and Matthew 🙂

London Procurement Project

Procured in London

I mentioned recently that I was going to go to London to renew my passport. It was a fruitful trip as I managed to kill many birds with one stone. The bf and I did the following:

  • Renewed my passport – it took barely half a day. I gave the forms and documents they wanted by 11am (we waited about two hours there) and was asked to pick the passport up at 3.15pm. By 4pm I was leaving the building with my new passport.
  • Met up with M (my really nice friends whom I’ve known for ages). He was too kind to meet up with us at Westfield despite being so jet lagged from his travels to New Zealand. You know you’ve found a true friend when he drags himself out of his apartment  despite being really jet lagged and proceeds to shop with you in Westfield.
  • Met up with S & J. S is technically my distant cousin who got married recently to J. They’re having an Indian wedding back home in July. I really hope I can attend it. It would be really nice, but let’s see how things pan out. The four of us had dinner at Jamie’s Italian at Leicester Square. Honestly I was too hungry to take any photographs of the food but let’s just say it was heaven. The highlight of that evening? Getting a table for 4 in Jamie Oliver’s Italian Restaurant with no wait or reservation. Talk about luck 🙂
  • Ate at Dishoom – twice, no less. Now you probably already know that the bf and I love that restaurant. We had their Berry Biryani, Pav Bhaji, Paneer Tikka, Naan, and Dhaba Chicken. Oh, and their House Chai is delicious. Someday I am so going to order their Chocolate Chai.
  • Visited Boot’s, Selfridges, MAC Cosmetics, the Apple store, GAP, Crumpler, sigh 🙂

Now Boot’s pharmacy sells some of the best skin care products out there like E45. E45 is what I use for my eczema prone skin (Currently it is healing wonderfully well thanks to a combination of E45, Weleda, Oilatum, Clarins and Rituals…someday I shall show you my skincare arsenal.) and the products cost almost nothing in the UK but is non-existent in Norway. It was even more fun to go to Boot’s that week as they were having a 3 for 2 deal on assorted skincare items. I got tons of E45 cream and lotion along with two of No 7’s dry oil. It seems dry oil is very moisturizing. I had no idea. I intend to try it out this Spring/Summer. I hope it keeps my parched skin hydrated. We shall see 🙂

The Tim Tam cookies and Freddo chocolate were gifts from M who brought them all the way from New Zealand. Sigh, the things our friends do for us 🙂

The Rituals store has some of the best shower foams ever. They’re called “foamsensation”. They’re like shaving gel that foams up when in contact with water but they’re so kind to sensitive skin like mine and smell divine. Of course it didn’t help that there was a 2 for 8GBP deal that week. Gotta love a bargain 🙂

Somewhere in that photograph above is Laura Mercier’s Eye Kohl Pencil in Stormy Grey. Karen recommended it to me (since I am a sucker for the colour grey) and I found it at Selfridges. KarlaSugar has some nice swatches of Laura Mercier’s Eye Kohl Pencils here.

New York, New York

Clock Tower Building

So the bf and I spent a week in New York. I have to say this was the best vacation of my life. It even tops San Francisco and Venice.

You’re probably thinking it’s a bit cliché to say that about New York and I would have agreed with you had I not been to New York. But after standing on the observatory deck of the Empire State Building and looking out at this beautiful man made city, I have to say there’s nothing cliché about it.

New York city is proof that anything is possible. You can tell that so many people with so many dreams moved all the way there to make something of themselves. As you walk the streets of New York and feel the hustle and bustle, you also understand the meaning of “in a New York minute”.

34th Street, New York

We had a list of places to see/things to do that we had prepared a few months in advance, after purchasing our tickets. We were quite sure that we didn’t want to do all the touristy stuff and miss out on just being in the city and getting a feel for it.

When we reached there, we realized that the city is humongous and there was no way we could cover everything we had on our list. So, we figured we’ll wing it and try to see some of the items on our list. After all, we just might be able to make another trip here someday in the future 🙂 *fingers crossed*

Sights

1. Empire State Building

We tried to get to the Empire State Building after 10am once, but the queue was just too long. A passerby asked one of the entrance workers how long it would take with that queue to get into the building and she said “3 hours”. We realized we could accomplish a lot more in 3 hours so we decided to postpone the visit. The next day we tried again, this time at 8am, when the building actually opens. Success! There was no queue at the entrance, a small queue at the security check, and a small queue at the elevator.

We went up to the Empire State Building’s observation deck on the 86th floor. Our ticket (the City Pass) included a free audio guide that was very, very informative. It’s basically a phone-receiver-like device that you place against your ear and you can choose which portion of the city you are looking at, and Tony (the voice) will tell you a little bit about the sights there with some interesting anecdotes.If you have the opportunity to visit the Empire State Building, please do.It’s a really nice building that was built in 1931 but it looks so ahead of it’s time.

View from Empire State Building Observatory

Lesson of the day: If you’ve traveled to New York from the East, use your jetlag to get you there early 🙂

It was a slightly foggy day, I believe, but the weather was quite pleasant.

2. The Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History is another sight we visited. This is the museum where A Night at The Museumis set. I’m normally not very keen on museums because they take a long time and sometimes it can be a bit eerie with all these strange relics and artifacts around. However, I must say this museum was wonderful.

I was very impressed with their Dinosaur exhibits as they were so upfront about what they wrote and how difficult it is to find scientific information about dinosaurs. For example there was an exhibit where they tried to explain whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded. That was interesting. Another one that was interesting was also how they claimed that birds are dinosaurs. I tried to get a photo of that one here:

Museum of Natural History - Birds are Dinosaurs

It’s funny because as a kid I was told by a teacher at school that lizards were the descendants of dinosaurs and since then I’ve developed a phobia for lizards. I’m still not sure how I survived two years in Brisbane with the chameleons walking around *shudder*.

Here’s a peek at the fossil they have there, it is huge. I’ve placed the bf in the frame for size comparison only 🙂

Museum of Natural History - Dinosaur Fossil

 

3. Central Park – We walked around central park (West) for an hour or so one particular morning. Central Park is huge! It was nice to see the location where so many movie scenes were shot. The park was quite empty so we took some photographs and continued walking. The weather was wonderfully sunny and quite warm for winter. Here’s a photo of me in Central Park with the lake behind me.

Lady Feeding Birds by Central Park

Me in Central Park - Excuse the windblown hair

 

4. Grand Central Terminal – I’ve seen some train stations but this one takes the cake. It’s really beautiful. I kind of wish we had taken a train from New York to somewhere just to be able to use the station. If you watch a lot of Hindi movies like I do, you’ll have a certain attachment to Grand Central Terminal as it is pictured in some of the movies lately, especially if the movie was shot in New York. I had to go to the Apple store within the area, which is like an open store.

Grand Central Station

Inside Grand Central Station

 

5. Flatiron Building –  This building was built in 1902. I was a bit annoyed with myself the first time we walked up to this building because I realized I had forgotten my camera’s zoom lens. So I couldn’t take a proper photograph of the entire building. The bf, who’s always too kind to me, brought us here again the next day so I could get a real photograph. Here’s the evidence:

Flatiron Building

Near the Flatiron District

 

Shopping

1. Woodbury Common Premium Outlets – We spent most of one particular day walking around here. Technically it’s a 1.5 hours drive from New York City. I’m a little bit of a shopaholic and I love bargains. Woodbury has wonderful outlets like Lululemon, Calvin Klein, Coach, Michael Kors, L’Occitane, etc. The upside of the outlet is the somewhat discounted prices.If you happen to be there at the right time of the year, you can get some good bargains. The downside is usually lack of size and colour.I’m common sized so it’s quite difficult to get my size items at outlets.

This time it was successful. I picked up some workout gear at Lululemon (They make the best workout clothing ever; I mean if you’re going to sweat, you might as well sweat in style, right?), a bag from Michael Kors along with a matching wallet, a biker style wool jacket from Calvin Klein, nothing in Coach (it was way too crowded, you’d think they were giving away bags for free!), and a  pair of short winter boots from Timberland (I paid roughly 1/8 of the price in Norway). The bf loved the deals at Timberland as they had down filled jackets for $100 and Calvin Klein Merino wool sweaters for $30. Definitely a steal for those of us paying an arm and leg for winter clothing in this corner of the world.

2. Bleecker Street – If you like Covent Garden in London, then you have to walk around Bleecker Street. The only reason I went to Bleecker Street was to visit the NARS store on 413 Bleecker Street.The store was wonderful. It was too much fun, standing there and swatching NARS blushes and lipsticks. Here are some photographs of what the store interior looks like. I didn’t take photos in the store as I was too busy swatching. Now, what did I get? Not telling ;)I will blog about it at … some point.

Now my fascination for NARS products is a little bit crazy. When the Bleecker Street store opened last year, they released a limited edition lipstickwhich I loved so I ordered one by phone from the store, had it shipped to San Francisco where a friend lives and had the bf pick it up when he was there for work. The things we do for love. I won’t be doing this anytime soon though, as the bf is going to travel less this year 🙂

Bleecker Street also has a branch of Magnolia Bakery. The first time we were walking along here, there was a long, long queue outside the bakery. Now the bf and I have little patience for queues as we live in small Oslo where there is never a line for anything beyond coffee in the mornings. (Norwegians drink a lot of coffee, have you heard?)

3. MAC Pro Store – I’m a huge fan of MAC cosmetics and I had heard about a Pro store that is near the Flatiron district. We tried looking for it but couldn’t find it. Then we asked at another store (that is within the Flatiron building itself) and was told that the Pro store is right across the street. Finally we did find the store but it looks like you have to buzz the intercom to be allowed entrance. Now the Pro store is in a league of its own 🙂 It’s a makeup lover’s dream come true. They have literally everything. If I wasn’t pressed for time, I could have spent the whole day there!

4. Union Square – There are some really nice stores around Union Square. If you like London, like me, being here might remind you of Regent Street; except for Regent Street having slightly narrower streets. The feel is quite similar. I checked out Banana Republic, Lululemon, Uniqlo, Loft, and Sephora. The bf actually got a haircut somewhere on this street while I was shopping 🙂 Talk about multitasking!

Food

The food, the food. What can I say? It was so delicious. We were spoilt for choice. Usually I read a lot of restaurant reviews and sometimes even make reservations by phone, before hand, to be able to secure a table for the two of us. This time we kind of played it by ear as we knew competition for food in New York had to be high and most restaurants had to maintain a certain level of quality. We tried the following restaurants/cafes:

  • Momofuku – The best thing to come out of the kitchen here is: The pork buns. Just kidding 🙂 Try the Kimchi Stew. The bf had that and I had the Spicy Chicken Ramen but it was not very spicy. We also ordered a serving of the pork buns. We loved the pork buns so much that the bf and I actually tried to make it the next weekend, after we came back.
  • Buddakan – We met an old friend of mine, from highschool, and her boyfriend here to have dinner for New Year’s Eve (This is the only restaurant for which the bf made reservations before hand). Later we went to a wine bar to countdown.
  • Olio – On our last day in New York we had lunch here. The pizza was really good and so was their coffee.
  • Magnolia Bakery – We shared a Red Velvet cupcake as well as a Vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing. Both were really good. I was really eager to eat my cupcake so much so that I actually forgot to take a photograph of it. This rarely happens to me 🙂
  • Financier Pastries– We were looking for a nice cafe for breakfast and saw this quaint little place. Let’s get to the important part, this is their pastries display:

    Financier Pastries Display

    I had their Egg on Brioche for breakfast and it was very, very good.

    Egg on Brioche at Financier Pastries

  • Nyonya – Whenever I travel, I dream of eating Malaysian food but I worry it might not be a pleasant experience as my taste buds are influenced by homesickness which can result in two outcomes: either I’m completely in love with the food or I’m sitting there comparing it with what I remember. Now the food at Nyonya was pretty good. I had the Nasi Lemak and the bf had their Kuay Teow. We also ordered some side dishes like Steamed Popiah and Roti Canai. Unfortunately the restaurant’s service was a bit disappointing. I’m not sure if I would go there again during the peak dinner period.
  • Wall & Water (W&W) – This is a restaurant that is part of the Andaz hotel. We had breakfast here once and it was very good. I had the Eggs Benedict and it was delicious. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photographs.
  • Sushi Samba – This is what I would call a fusion restaurant that serves cuisine that is a blend of Japanese, Brazillian and Peruvian food. We stumbled upon it by chance as we were nearby and were almost starving.

    Sushi at Sushi Samba

  • Dean and Deluca – We had soup and sandwiches at their branch near Times Square. It was delicious on a cold day. I was too hungry to take photographs 🙂
  • Kyotofu – Kyotofu is a Japanese dessert bar. They make desserts like green tea chocolate, black sesame flavoured tofu pannacotta, and serve delicious tea. If we had not known about this dessert place in advance, we would not have been able to find it. It’s cleverly concealed.

    Kuro Goma Sweet Tofu at Kyotofu

    I really liked their teapot:

    Hoji-cha at Kyotofu

    This is me at Kyotofu. I look so chubby :/

    Me at Kyotofu (I look so chubby!)

  • Chipotle – A chain of Mexican grills that serve very fresh burritos (and other stuff but I always end up picking a burrito). They’re fairly laidback and have a bit of a fast-food feeling but they make your food in front of you so you get to see how they make it and it gives me, at least, some peace of mind.
  • Devi – We dropped by here one evening. The service was impeccable and the food was extremely good. We had the Ragda Pattis Chaat, Abha Aunty’s Baingan and Pav “Indian Sloppy Joe” Bhaji. All three were excellent.

Overall it was a wonderful trip but New York is one of those places where one visit is just not enough – at least that’s what I’m telling the bf to convince him that we need to go there again. I’m still going through photographs. I might add a few more in later.

Just When You Think You’ve Had Enough of Travel..

…you find out that your younger sister wants you to take her around some parts of Europe (three countries, to be exact) next Summer.

Part of me is overjoyed because I’ve barely spent any time with my family members lately. The other part of me is kind of tired from traveling so much – I know, I should just up and enjoy it, right? But here I am, whinging away like an old woman 🙂

It’s going to be fun though. We have a couple of spots we’re working on narrowing down:

  1. Amsterdam – I’ve been to Amsterdam twice but fleetingly as I was there for work. I walked around, stopped by the MAC Pro store and attended a tradeshow. That’s it. So if we get to go to Amsterdam, this time, at least I’ll get to eat some delicious Dutch pancakes, Indonesian food, and definitely french fries with mayonnaise.
  2. Barcelona – I’ve never been here but I’ve read heaps of blog posts written by people who were here. It would be great to be able to eat some authentic tapas and chocolate con churros 😉 Of course it wouldn’t hurt to pop by Spanish stores like Bimba y Lola and Desigual.
  3. London – My sister will technically be landing in London so a trip there is always fun. It would be my second trip to London next year as we’re already going there in February for a quick weekend so that I can attend the IMATS exhibition. I know, way too much travel. I’ve been trying really hard to be less-travel-friendly so the universe will stop throwing reasonably priced flight tickets and travel opportunities my way, but it’s not happening though. They say when life hands you lemon, you should make lemonade, but what do you do when life hands you travel?
  4. Berlin – My sister has never been to Berlin and I think she should experience a wee bit of German culture. After all, a girl’s gotta have some apfelkuchen, no?

I guess we’ll see how this pans out 🙂

Bitten By The Travel Bug

Recently I mentioned I was going to New York for New Year’s Eve. Then, the bf suggested we go to Germany for Christmas, to spend it with his family. Now, I’ve seen my family twice this year, so it’s only fair he gets to see his family too. So, we booked our tickets for that trip as well. Effectively it’s now 12 days of travel in December.

Three weeks ago, I was asked to go on a business trip to US, to attend business meetings. It is a great opportunity so I could not say no.

It’s been really busy, trying to prepare for the trip and also trying to get work done. I used to be this really motivated, energized person, but after a few years in the workforce, I got a bit complacent and slow moving. Work life is tricky because I notice that overly enthusiastic people, like who I used to be, are more likely to get burnt out. So, I taught myself to expect less and to take things a bit easy. However, this job seems to need the old me, rather than the new, laidback me. It’s taken a bit of time to summon my old self and motivate myself to be all energetic and enthusiastic again.

Life is definitely picking up and I cannot wait to write my 2011 reflection blog post – I sure have a lot to be grateful for 🙂

 

The Hedonistic London Trip

Carrot Cupcake from Ella's Bakehouse at Covent Garden (http://ellasbakehouse.co.uk/)

This was a trip where I did everything I wanted, threw caution into the wind, played it by ear with friends (making almost no plans beforehand and meeting people on the last minute), going from one restaurant to another, shopping at one store after another, and just being. In other words, the bf and I simply wandered about the streets of London, mostly on foot (Oh my goodness, my feet hurt so bad, despite wearing my very comfortable shoes), and had a whale of a time.

We ate at:

  1. Dishoom – This is a wonderful cafe. I know, I know, I always rave about cafes and restaurants but this cafe is just…more than wonderful. It’s located in Covent Garden but once you step into the cafe, you are transported to Bombay (the little that I know of Bombay, from watching hundred of Hindi movies ;)) and served street food like Pav Bhaji and Masala Chai (in the same type of glass they use in the movies!). You can also try fusion food like Bacon Naan Rolls or Chilli Cheese Toast. If you are ever at Covent Garden and feel like eating something better than a sandwich, please go to Dishoom 🙂 The bf and I went here twice in two days – we liked it *that* much.
  2. Masala Zone – This is a restaurant that I love visiting as they have all the Indian street food I see in the movies (if you couldn’t tell yet, I love movies ;)) and I get to eat them without having to go to India.  I love Chaat – it’s basically Indian street food and not good for me as most of it is fried, but when you are in a city like London, and being served a beautiful, rare (for me) dish like Chaat, you just have to eat it. It’s a sin to deny yourself Chaat. Paapri Chaat and Samosa Chaat are served here, on top of Chappatis (which I cannot get in Norway) and Chicken Curry. *Dreamy sigh* The bf and I met up with Mpt and his girlfriend here. Meeting the two of them was the icing on the cake.
  3. New World Dim Sum – My cousin, S and her bf took us here for Dim Sum. It’s a very authentic Chinese Dim Sum place where there is no menu. The way Dim Sum is served here is waitresses go around with carts filled with different types of Dim Sums and then you pick what you like from the cart. Technically there are no price tags either so you just eat what you like, the waitresses mark it on a piece of paper on your table..then you ask for the bill later. Now the Dim Sum here was delicious. They even had Char Siu and Char Siu Baos here – exactly what I wanted to eat.
  4. Pho Cafe – When the bf and I dragged ourselves to Pho Cafe one evening, we were beat; we had been walking around Covent Garden, Oxford Street and SoHo for a good 7 hours or so, not to mention a trip to Tower of London that morning. So you can imagine how tired we were. Of course after having dinner at Pho Cafe, we walked out smiling. The Pho with chicken was soooo good. We also had fresh, cold apple juice there.
  5. Graphic Bar – My cousin S and her bf brought us here for some really good cocktails (mocktails for me) and delicious snacks. The Baba Ghanoush and Pita were really good. I also caved and ate french fries here as I saw it on the menu and just could not resist. I think I eat french fries every three months or so 🙂
  6. Carnaby Burger Co – A few hours before we had to head off to the airport, we went to SoHo and Oxford Street again as I was having a bit of separation anxiety with my favourite stores. On our way back to the hotel we stopped by Carnaby St to have lunch and Carnaby Burger Co was our choice of restaurant. We had fuss-free, delicious burgers and large glasses of cold water for some pre-flight hydration. Perfect for a sunny day.

Beautiful Interior at Dishoom

My breakfast: Bombay Omelette with Bacon at Dishoom

We saw:

  1. Tower of London – We’ve been to the Tower of London once, in 2010, but we did not have the energy to queue in line to see the Crown Jewels. So, this time we thought we’d go back there again and see the Crown Jewels as well as the Royal Beasts exhibit which seems to be new.
  2. Tate Modern – I have never been to Tate Modern before so this time we made it a point to visit it. It’s so nice to see art get so much respect and recognition. One of the exhibits we saw was Poetry & Dream which was a little bit dark, but very impressive. Seeing a real Picasso painting was definitely a highlight of our visit there 🙂
  3. Spitalfields Market – This was a very nice market and of course it helped that there was a branch of Wagamama within the market itself. I picked up some handmade accessories here (one of my few weaknesses).
  4. Brick Lane area – The bf and I met up with our friend and former colleague, J, here and wandered around the area while getting rained on. It was a bit strange to be here actually as we usually hang out around central London – Oxford St, Bond St, Regent St area and Covent Garden or Leicester Square. So this was a bit of an eye opening experience.
  5. Carnaby St – Carnaby St is beautiful. It has all the shops I love (not to mention Liberty – where you can find literally anything like NARS  and other wonderful brands like Shu Uemura and even Korres, all under one roof. Definitely a cosmetics lover’s heaven). I could have spent a full day here but I think in the end we spent about 2 hours or so. When I go to London again, I hope to spend a full day wandering around this street 🙂
  6. Covent Garden – I love Covent Garden for it’s mix of shops, restaurants, cafes, and the ambience. If you are hungry, you can literally eat at any restaurant/cafe here because that’s how good the food at Covent Garden is. I was hunting for the Jo Malone store as I remember there was a branch here, but could not find it at all. Maybe I was wrong. I did pick up a bottle of Jo Malone perfume later at Selfridges 🙂
  7. China Town (Gerrard St) – Ah, to eat authentic Chinese food again. I think I miss Chinese food the most because I can get Northern Indian food here but Chinese food is either not authentic (not Malaysian Chinese style at least) or just too expensive here. Apart from the Dim Sum place, the bf and I simply wandered around here while I tried to resist buying groceries and food items as I wanted to keep my luggage at a reasonable weight. Perhaps on another trip, I shall venture into the grocery stores and stock up on spices.

The bf and Mr J, our old friend

Tower of London

View of Tower of London from the Wall Walk

Peeking at London Bridge

Come sit with me under the tree, for I shall tell thee a story..

Last but not least, here’s a photograph of me 🙂

Me

I know it must be a bit strange for me to keep wanting to go back to London all the time. Part of me knows that traveling is more enjoyable if you keep visiting different cities, but for some reason, London is like a mystery to me that I keep itching to unravel. I think I will never tire of going to London.