November 9, 2013

A day in Picardy

France is a beautiful country & autumn is the best season to experience the French countryside in all its glory. We visited the grandmother of my husband last weekend in the Picardy region & had a field day discovering old castles & military cemeteries. History is always alive in France. But here, it lives on in the land… the Somme département suffered terribly during the first World War where a few hundred thousand soldiers died heroically for the country.


Chateau de Couin.


Berthencourt Military Cemetery. It stood regal and undisturbed, nestled amongst hectares of rolling hills and farmland. Reading the tombs of the young men who fell during the war definitely lent a sombre note to the day.


Chateau de Huné, hidden deep in a forest..


And my favorite, the Chateau de Vadencourt, at the centre of a family conflict, stood forgotten and unkempt, but looked like it came right out of a fairytale!



The abandoned greenhouse of my grandmother-in-law which fed a family of 12 children! A vestige of the glorious past that no one could bear to tear down.

Musée Jacquemart-André


If there was one museum in Paris which I find the prettiest no matter how many times i’ve been, it’s undoubtedly the Jacquemart-André museum. The only advice is to arrive early at opening time as it’s the favorite museum of retirees (or so my husband claims).


The magnificent entryway invites you to discover in all its splendor, the passion shared by the couple who owned this mansion and later donated it to the Institut de France after their deaths. Edouard André and Nelie Jacquemart amassed a vast collection of art and sculptures during their life, mostly Italian but quelle beauté!


After the visit, have lunch or tea at the café which fills up within minutes and there’s always a long line. The cakes and tarts are DELICIOUS and the service always friendly and quick.



The next time you find yourself in Paris, don’t forget to put this on your list!

October 30, 2013

Sofia, Bulgaria

Bulgaria is one of those countries which never makes it to anyone's must-do list and I'm the first to admit that I would never have entertained the thought of visiting this place had my sister not pushed me to join in for 4 days of her trip with her husband. And as we often say, never be too quick to judge.


I conjured up images of crime and danger and a generally backward city before I left but once I arrived in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, it only took a few hours to realise how horribly wrong I was. True, the remnants of the Soviet Union were still present in the grey buildings and the general reticence of the older population but Sofia is a cosmopolitan city emerging from the shadows of the past and I was so glad to have visited it when it was still generally uncommercialised. 


Sofia is generally safe and modern comforts are aplenty. Tap water comes from the mountains and is safe to drink. The metro stations are clean and spacious, a far cry from those in Paris. The younger generation speak good English and are so friendly and warm, offering help whenever they see someone looking lost. The prices were also very affordable; hotels and food cost less than half of those in Paris. We got decent restaurant meals for less than 10 euros each.


Sofia is nestled at the foot of the Vitosha mountains and it provided a spectacular landscape for our city walks.


The Alexander Nevsky cathedral - built in memory of Russian soldiers who liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule.


We also drove out of Sofia to visit the Rila monastery, one of many monasteries dotting the nearby mountains. The view of the mountains and small villages along the mountain roads were something I never expected of Bulgaria.


Nestled at 1147 metres amongst coniferous forests, the Eastern Orthodox monastery is a sight to behold with intricately painted frescoes and courtyards with mountain views. 


After this, I had to return to Paris (rather unwillingly at this point) while my sister & her husband continued on east to Plovdiv, a more authentic Bulgarian city and then on to the Black Sea coast.
Definitely going to put this country on my list of places to revisit!

October 29, 2013

Weekend in Essaouira

Sorry for the lack of updates... my autumn has been filled with weekend trips either around France or to nearby cities. I am happy to be home enjoying some quiet time at last!

We had the chance to discover Essaouira, a coastal city in Morocco where we spent a weekend doing some thalassotherapy and eating lots of Moroccan food. Thalassotherapy uses seawater to massage the body either with jets of water or in massage baths; it also involves the use of algae and mud wraps. It was simply a very relaxing experience as we've been unbelievably busy with renovation works in the apartment.



We stayed at the L'Heure Bleue Palais, a hotel built over 3 years from an abandoned orphanage and which stood regally at the corner of the old medina. 





The medina was a complex labyrinth of shops selling silver jewellery, wooden crockery, fried fish, kilim rugs and sweet cakes. I was not a big fan of the medina but had to admit that the energy on a Saturday night was addictive. There were vendors selling fresh almond milk and families milling around, enjoying the sea breeze. It was perfectly normal to see sheep being wheeled in barrows to the abbatoir, alongside giggly schoolgirls, sinister-looking men and the odd Caucasian tourist.



And of course the coast lived up to its reputation as a kite-surfing paradise... for us, it was enough to just sit on a rock with our well-massaged bodies and watch the seagulls fly over our heads. x

October 10, 2013

Autumn days

We have been staying at my mother-in-law's place in the countryside since our apartment is still undergoing renovation. 


This means slow mornings, soft autumn light and delicious home-cooked dinners. 


And also time to slowly savor Kinfolk. 
The images are beautiful but the writing is what makes it my favorite magazine.

October 8, 2013

Ten Belles


Ten Belles is a great place to get your caffeine fix when you are in the Canal St Martin area. None of that Parisian bitter diluted coffee here! You get a good strong brew, friendly people and a charming open concept. 


Sharing a windowsill!

September 25, 2013

The Plain

A simple cafe serving one of the most delicious coffees in Singapore.




September 24, 2013

Chinatown

Chinese lanterns from the Mid-Autumn Festival last week frame the iconic Sri Mariamman temple in Chinatown. Love the colors!





September 22, 2013

F1 Singapore Grand Prix

Every year since 2008, Singapore hosts the Grand Prix, the only night race on the F1 calendar. During the 3-day event, roads are closed, tourists fly in, parties are held and the whole nation generally gets into a frenzy because well, it's hard NOT to pay attention to it. 

The noise is deafening beyond words and the atmosphere is electrifying. Plus the race is set amidst the colors of the city skyline.





Red Bull and Mercedes? Couldn't tell... the cars were so fast they zoomed past in a fraction of a second.


And of course, dinner before at Gluttons Bay is a must.



September 20, 2013

Hoshino Coffee's pancakes


are the best way to pass a quiet afternoon by yourself. 
I've been so busy meeting up with friends and settling family matters that these few weeks literally flew by! 
I return to Paris next week and summer would have gone just like that.