Living it up in London ~

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My time in London is coming to an end and yet, here I am with my first post ever on this fabulous, metropolitan city. I’ve always loved this place and so when it came to deciding my next location, it was not a difficult choice to make.

regent street   london bridge

Sadly, my third time in London was not met with a very warm welcome as my stay kicked off with the theft of my phone. Two men on a stolen scooter snatched it right out of my hands while I was attempting to locate my Uber. How did you know the scooter was stolen? Well, apparently, this seems to be a common phenomenon, I am told by the locals and usually, the culprits are juvenile delinquents who steal scooters in order to zip around town stealing phones.

 

 

Don’t even ask. It’s beyond me.

However, despite this very unfortunate mishap, the rest of my time here has been enjoyable! I got to do all the cringey, touristy things while living amongst the locals.
I’ve been to the London Eye and Westminster Abbey, but also shopped in Morrison’s every week for groceries.  I’ve had drinks at the breathtaking Sky Garden but I’ve also grabbed a quick beer at the local pub. I’ve spent an afternoon in a swish South Kensington boutique hotel having high tea but I’ve also spent an afternoon crouched over shelves of books at a second hand book store in Stoke Newington. I’ve spent Saturday nights out in town meeting people on the dance floor but I’ve also spent Saturday nights at home, conversing with my flatmate over wine about life. Chuckle*

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I am grateful to the kind lady on the Eurostar who offered me a place to stay after overhearing my telephone conversation about how I might not have been able to retrieve the keys my friend had left for me at his office building reception.
I am grateful to the various people who offered help (and their numbers) “if I ever needed anything in London” and to the peace and quiet I found on the streets. It is an utter relief to wander about the city without an untasteful comment from a poorly educated member of the opposite sex. I’d been living in Paris for so long, I’ve forgotten how freeing it feels!
Most of all, I am grateful to my lovely Airbnb host, Sophia, who rented me a room but gave me a home and also to my flatmate Stella, who filled this home with her warm presence.

 

Three months is in no way sufficient for discovering this ever-changing, dynamic capital but it was a delicious taste of what London has to offer.

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Dear Aletha

It’s been a while since my last blog post but while browsing through Google Keep, my new obsession as I LOVE lists, I came across a letter I had written to my dear friend, Aletha.

It is a recount of my trip to Egypt and was written on my 2-3 hour flight from Istanbul to Paris using my phone. I never sent it. Now two months later, I’m reading this letter, looking back at the photos and am feeling the vibes of the country again so here goes.

Aletha, if you’re reading, this one’s for you! Wink*

 


 

Dear Aletha,

I am currently on the plane from Istanbul to Paris. It has been an extremely long flight that started at 3am this morning and not a particularly comfortable one at that.

A female official in Turkey was trying to make my life difficult and did such a good job of it that I was literally fuming. The problem? She couldn’t find my stamp of entry and was looking at my previous visas.
So I tried to show her and she asked me to step aside! A whole queue of people couldn’t advance as we were blocking the progression of the line and was being watched like a theatre piece because of this foolish woman.
Normally, I’d be a lot more patient but I haven’t slept in 36 hours and I have a huge spot above my right eyebrow.

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Ahhhhh…all complaints aside, Egypt has been a wonderful experience. You’ve probably seen from some of my posts on Facebook and Instagram how much I’ve enjoyed my stay. As a child, I was an avid reader of Egyptian history books and watched almost every Mummy movie there was. As you can imagine, for me to see real life hieroglyphs etched into almost every surface available on every tomb and temple we visited was a dream come true!

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We swam in the Red Sea and saw an aquarium of fish, then took a boat to cross the Nile River the following day. All these important landmarks we’ve heard and read about, I got to see with my own eyes. They are all the more impressive when bathed in the golden sunlight so unique to Egypt!

egypt1However, the country is still fresh out of its civil war/ second revolution but is in full development. The people praise the current president, calling him a “visionary” and it is true! He has built the roads and the housing he promised them but as all this is still work in process, many parts of Egypt look “war-ridden”.
The villages and cities have a worn down, dilapidated look about them and where we were in the south, people are still very religious and traditional.

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To illustrate what I mean, there was a shisha tent on the beach at the Movenpick resort in Hurghada and one of the men employed by the Jamaican Rastafarian looking, Bob Marley loving, hash smoking Egyptian owner called Mustafa told us an otherworldly story about how his first wife was his own cousin and how she spread rumours about how he was unable to produce offspring. He was so heartbroken by what the village was whispering about him that he made his way to the Arabian gulf to work for ten years where he met his second wife. This wife gave him a son who’s now eight months old and of course, he went back to the village to celebrate and “take his revenge”. What an incredible story huh?! Never did I even stop to think for two seconds that there are still people who lead such lives and marry into their own family.

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Anyway, continuing on the topic of conservatism in the country, women still wear burkas like uniforms and the only time I’ve ever even seen women around and about were in schools so at least they have the right to an education but I have rarely seen women in the workplace. When we went to Luxor, it took me a couple hours to figure out why something seemed…off, just not quite right…and then it hit me: there were literally no women. Not in the museums, the souvenir shops, the restaurants etc. And it makes me wonder…do they feel suppressed or is it the whole “what one doesn’t know can’t hurt them” situation? What do you think?

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So all this just to bring us to my one real disappointment on this trip: that there is such a disconnect between ancient Egypt (which was such a progressive civilization during its time) and the Egypt of today, almost completely destroyed by extremist Muslims.
Emphasis on ‘extremist’. I am not at all against any religion, race, colour or what have you but the extremists of each group do not make me feel very comfortable.
This includes vegans who resort to converting others by spreading the “good word”, or rather by sharing gory videos of animal abuse. I sympathise but this isn’t the proper way to go about things.

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One thing has to be said though and that is one doesn’t need much to be happy. The Egyptians embody this humble spirit better than most people I’ve met. It is truly eye-opening when you see those with much less, much happier and more grateful than you are. They have such a hunger and a thirst to succeed so they work very hard but their smiles never falter. I’m sure we all know this but it is easy to forget when you live in such a strong consumerist society and when you have social media and the stress of a fast-paced, city life. 


 

Strangely, I never signed off but then again, in my own bizarre fashion, I never sent this letter either. 

But there you have it!

Aletha, I was thinking of you and didn’t forget about my pen pal but as usual, life sweeps us away.

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Your Shakshuka Fix – Café Méricourt

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They say Café Méricourt has the best shakshuka in town and it shows: the line was a good 20-30 minutes long on that Sunday morning. However, as I approached the café, I saw a queue that was shorter than I had imagined. Little did I know, it had ‘potential’. Wink*

It was freezing and the sudden drop in temperature had taken us all by surprise. We were shivering and shaking as we greeted each other and quickly caught up over the events of the past week.

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Finally we were ushered in and shown to a table for three. The ambiance was warm and cosy, the slightly rustic but also bright and simple décor contributing to the overall feel of the restaurant. The menus were placed in front of us and we were given ample time before the waiter came around to take our orders.

Truth be told, the service was rather slow and not particularly friendly but as it was a busy morning, I can understand. However, in my mind, no matter how slow you are in serving the coffee, they should all be served at the same time. Not two first and the last ten minutes later but perhaps that’s just me being picky. The food was served at the same time though.

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We had all ordered the small shakshuka which was more than sufficient. The dish was served in a mini pan with a portion of yoghurt littered with nuts that was a delicious and light counterpart to the shakshuka that was heavy in spices and flavour. In addition, the bread was EXCEPTIONALLY good and this deserves a special mention of its own.

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In conclusion, does Café Méricourt deserve its title as one of the best brunches in Paris? I would say yes! For the ridiculously affordable price point (10 euros for a shakshuka + 4 euros for the coffee), it makes my list and I will definitely be returning to try its other equally well-known dish: the breakfast roll at only 8,50 euros!

See you soon~!

Address: 22 Rue de la Folie Méricourt, 75011 Paris
To learn more about Café Méricourt:
Official Website (check out the menu here!)
’21 Totally Unmissable Brunches in Paris’ – Timeout Paris

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Afternoon Retreat – Caudalie Spa

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It is hard to imagine that less than an hour outside of Paris, you could find such peace and quiet.

Situated between this magical French capital and Versailles, is the Caudalie Spa that I should’ve written about many weeks ago but as a professional procrastinator…I have put it off until now.

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What is there more to say though? This gorgeous little retreat is tucked away neatly inside a 4 star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant next to a pond where many take their afternoon walks.

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The service is friendly and professional, as you would expect from Caudalie and you get a bag of goodies along with your bathrobe and slippers. It contains:

  • a 15ml Moisturizing Sorbet
  • 5ml Clear Skin Purifying Toner
  • 2ml Skin Perfecting Mattifying Fluid
  • 1ml Energizing and Smoothing Eye Cream
  • 7ml Nourishing Body Lotion

Strangely, I have a feeling that these are the products that sell the least and as a “two birds one stone” strategy, they’ve given testers out to clients who visit the spa. None of the products that I really want to purchase (and that sell well) have made it into this goodie bag. Right now, I have my keen eye on the VinActiv line, mainly the serum and detox oil.

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Regardless, we spent a good amount of time in the jacuzzi and hammam, alternating between the two and taking a wine break in their gardens which were bathed in warm, golden sunlight – the kind you get only in Autumn…

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For more information, visit their website!

 

 

 

Mucha – King of Art Nouveau

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One summer at the age of 16, I fell in love with the delicate lines and romanticism of Alphonse Mucha’s works. It was the summer I volunteered at the National Palace Museum and this was their temporary exhibition.

Imagine my contentment when I saw the first few posters for the Mucha expo at Musée du Luxembourg popping up all over Paris! Imagine my excitement when I was offered the tickets!

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Alphonse Mucha was a Czech painter and lived in Paris during the Art Nouveau era. He rose to fame with his first ever poster of Sarah Bernhardt (a famous Parisian actress/comedian) and later became known as “the greatest decorative artist in the world”. From posters, he extended his talents to designing covers of menus, biscuit boxes, even jewellery and the interior of a jewellery shop!

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In 1894, Mucha would meet the Swedish author August Swindberg who was deeply interested in the occult and mysticism. This led Mucha to join the Freemasons which advocated “the improvement of humanity”. He would then give up his signature style, the Mucha style, to create art driven by a social and philosophical vision of unity.

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Sadly, the Mucha style is my personal favourite. I much prefer the gaiety of the colours and figures in his posters to the sombre depictions of suffering shown in his later works. It is also the Mucha style that drove him to fame and fortune. All the same, I do admire the man for believing in something more than the superficiality of mankind.

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Unfortunately, as a well-known figure and a Freemason, Mucha was one of the first to be arrested by the Gestapo during World War II and died 10 days after his 79th birthday…

Regardless, the beauty and grace of Mucha’s art lives on and is much appreciated by fans such as myself.

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Angelina Café next to Musée du Luxembourg

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Cake designed for the Mucha expo – sadly, it didn’t last under the heat!

For more information on the exhibition at Musée du Luxembourg, feel free to visit their website. However, I have included some useful information below.

Dates: 12 September 2018 – 27 January 2019

Opening times: Everyday from 10:30 – 19:00 (until 22:00 every Friday)
The museum will also be open for extra night shifts every Monday from the 12th of November until the 17th of December.
The museum will be open ’til 18:00 on the 24th and 31st of December and will be closed on Christmas (25th December).

Tickets: 13 euros full price

 

Street Bangkok Local Food – Imaginez…Bangkok…Ses rues électriques…

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Paris has never experienced a shortage of exotic cuisines and flavours and Street Bangkok is a perfect example of why.

Its simple, trendy and hip decor topped off with the typical tables, chairs and utensils that one would usually find at a food stand in Thailand complete the whole vibe.

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However, what truly brings the place together is still, of course, the food.

The richness of the spicy curry sauce, the aroma of the white rice with its condiments of coriander and cucumber, the affordable price point and its generous portions.

Sadly, they no longer offer khao man gai which is the most common street food one could have in the alleys of Bangkok. Another point worth noting is that the poulet grill on their “hot” menu is not a typical Thai dish and is never served with rice. Instead it is a BBQ starter (chicken satay with peanut sauce) to be enjoyed with a cold beer. Regardless, this momentary lapse of authenticity doesn’t take away from the taste.

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If you have a moment and a craving for Thai food, and if you are conveniently around Canal St. Martin, Bastille or metro Etienne Marcel, make sure you go in for a tasty experience that will transport you to the tropics of Thailand.

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Street Bangkok Local Food
Official website: www.streetbangkok.fr
Canal St. Martin address: 3 Rue Eugène Varlin, 75010 Paris
Bastille address: 13 Rue de la Roquette, 75011 Paris
Etienne address: 112 Rue Saint-Denis, 75002 Paris

Developing My Aquatic Addiction At Aquatic Addiction Development 三井 上引水產

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One of the things that I missed the most while in Paris was good, affordable, fresh sushi. Unfortunately, you have one of three options: 1) pseudo-Japanese restaurants 2) chain store sushi places and 3) super expensive Japanese owned sushi restaurants that will easily cost you over 100 euros for two.
Luckily, France is well-known for some of the world’s best seafood so I was able to quench my cravings at places like Bar à iode.

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However, nothing beats Taipei’s Fish Market in terms of affordability and taste. As a veteran, I have tried all four restaurants and feel sufficiently informed to give an opinion.
Legend has it that they were going to demolish the building when it was bought and turned into the seafood paradise we have now; a bit like La Felicità in Paris. The entire space has been divided into the Supermarket, the Sushi Bar, the Seafood Bar, the Charcoal Grilled, the Hot Pot and Trésors de la Mer.

Now, there are a few ways you could go about eating your seafood. You could simply grab a couple goodies from the supermarket where they provide everything from miso soup, salmon rice, mentaiko grilled salmon, nigiri, sashimi and grilled meats – which is what I did today as I was short on time – or you could sit yourself down at one of the many restaurants in the Fish Market, except for the Seafood and Sushi Bar where they were going for more of a standing sushi bar/sushi on the go concept.

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Trésors de la Mer has got to be my favourite as they do everything from seafood platters to hot pot. It is a three floor restaurant on the far end of the Fish Market that overlooks the Charcoal Grilled. The Charcoal Grilled comes in at a close second because having a mini barbecue on your table in an open space amidst all the fairy lights with a huge screen showing old, black and white movies makes for a beautiful summer moment and scores high on the originality scale but lacks the appeal of raw seafood. The Hot Pot rates even lower on my list because hot pot places in Taipei are as numerous as the stars in the sky. However, it needs to be said that both the Hot Pot and the Charcoal Grilled provide quality ingredients and excellent service.

Regardless of whether you end up munching on a skewer stick or swallowing French imported Gillardeau oysters whole, a trip to Taipei is not complete without visiting its Fish Market.

Aquatic Addiction Development 三井 上引水產
Address: No. 18, Alley 2, Lane 410, Minzu East Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan 10491
Official Website: http://www.addiction.com.tw/