Knock Knock, Reality Here

Over the past few days, Bolly and I visited one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and were blissfully (almost entirely) cut off from the rest of the world…

Days began with the all “important” questions such as “What should we have for breakfast?”; “Where should we visit today?”; “What’s the weather forecast?”; “Where should we go for lunch/dinner?”; “How should we get to our next destination?”.  Nothing complex. Life can be that simple…

We walked (quite a lot I must say) and visited many places, laughed at our own jokes, had silly little tiffs, tried local cuisine (fortunately we were spared from diarrhoea), interacted with locals (in both good and bad ways) and learned a lot about the country we are visiting.

Ahh, the beauty of travelling 🙂

On the eve of our departure, the reality of heading back to work is sinking in…way too quickly. As they say, all good things must come to an end…

Big sigh, little tear 😩

Advertisements

Am I straight?

Am I (standing) straight? The question I asked myself often…the first time I visited Amsterdam about 5 years ago. The sight of crooked buildings and houses tilted to the side caught me by surprise back then and never fails to bring a smile to my face whenever I see them in Amsterdam. Here are some photos from our recent trip to Amsterdam with my brothers.

So it seems that the houses in Amsterdam are tilted as the wooden stilts which were driven into the swamp land to support the houses are rotting hence causing the houses to sink and tilt.

Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out which is the tilted building. These two were obvious though…

Even the street lamp wasn’t straight or was it the buildings that were tilted?

Slanted, crooked and tilted buildings aside, Amsterdam’s still a picturesque city…

🙂 🙂

Getting Away from Getting Away

A staycation in Paris was what my system needed after the recent travels. No packing of suitcases, checking in online, rushing to the airport, crossing our fingers upon arrival that the taxi driver is an honest man, planning our itinerary in order to maximise our holiday, catching the flight back to Paris and once again crossing our fingers that our suitcases would actually appear on the luggage belt. Just me and Paris, accompanied by Bolly and girlfriends. What more can a gal ask for?

A visit to the CinĂ©mathĂšque Française to view the re-creation of the world of eccentric film-maker Tim Burton and picking up a souvenir from the visit…

Life isn’t easy for the Pin Cushion Queen
When she sits on her throne, pins push through her spleen

The discovery of another good Chinese restaurant in Paris, Shan Goût in the 12th arrondissement


Window-shopping for us girls. Love the French term for it, “lùche vitrine”, which literally means licking the shop window. Thereafter an afternoon at the movies


Ending the leisure afternoon with a drink at one of the newest and hip addresses in Paris, Beef Club Ballroom (58, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, 75001).  Followed by a mouth-watering burger at the Beef Club. I usually am wary of these hip new addresses but Beef Club did not disappoint


How about visiting a museum after dinner? It was the annual Night of Museums which meant that museums were opened late till midnight. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with this idea.  The queue outside Louvre was (way too) long….

Sleeping in the following morning. Having breakfast and watching re-runs of Grey’s Anatomy = bliss…

The Grand Palais’ retrospective on famed photographer Helmut Newton beckoned


All the calories consumed had to be burnt off with a 16km run. Post-run reward, quality Japanese cuisine at an affordable price @ Restaurant Zen…

A leisurely stroll around this beautiful city as the sun was setting


Sometimes the simplest pleasures of life are just around us. No plane tickets needed to find bliss, maybe just a metro/subway ticket… 🙂

Lisbon Dining Scene: Restaurant Alma

Chee and I often travel to Lisbon and we’ve come to realise that most of the Portuguese restaurants serve dishes that are soaked in olive oil and heavy (don’t get me wrong, the dishes are flavourful and Portuguese olive oil is of top quality). We searched further and found a number of restaurants where the cuisine incorporates French flair while retaining Portuguese traditions.  One of them is “Alma” restaurant and we’ve been there twice on two separate visits to Lisbon.

Once you pass the main entrance, you feel like you’ve just entered heaven as the restaurant’s decor is all white with a big cloud as a centre-piece light and friendly staff welcome you with wide smiles.

The menu purposed by chef Henrique Sà Pessoa is in 3 parts: the tasting menu with the classic signature dishes of the chef, the seasonal tasting menu and the ‘Ă  la carte’ menu. On our first visit, we tried the classic tasting menu and were impressed. The dishes were cooked perfectly and the mixture of flavours were pleasing to even the harshest critic, me 🙂 As accompaniment, I chose a white Bairrada wine at around €30 by Luis Pato, a very good Portuguese wine producer! The wine list which is made up of mainly Portuguese wines offers a very good selection and good price/quality ratio.

Having had such a good experience on our first visit, I decided to bring Chee back to Alma on our recent visit to Lisbon and we went for the Ă  la carte menu.

Before our meal, we received their sumptuous assortment of home-made breads – white bread, thin crispy bread with sesame and focaccia (  The focaccia was tasty, delicious just heavenly!) – and an appetizer (veloutĂ© of chickpeas with truffle oil).

After stuffing ourselves with bread (3 servings of focaccia, no less ;)), we decided to share one starter: Squid & prawns sautéed in chilli and garlic with cherry tomatos, roquette and parmesan.

Very nice and refreshing to start off the meal!

For the main dish, Chee chose the traditional duck rice with Iberian pork chorizo and sliced duck magret. I went for the lamb tenderloin, creamy potato and garlic mash, sautéed cepes and spinach.  The presentation of the duck rice reminded Chee of the duck rice served back in Singapore but that was where the similarity ended. The dish was oozing with flavours and left Chee wanting more. The lamb tenderloin may have paled in comparison to the duck but was still a pleasure to the taste buds.

Greedy BollyChees decided to each order a dessert and we went with the molten dark chocolate lava cake with coffee ice cream and the warm banana and toffee pudding with coconut ice cream.

We left the restaurant stuffed and on hindsight, we should have shared a dessert but who can say no to desserts?

We’ve been impressed by the quality of the food at Alma on both visits and can safely say that it’s definitely a must-go in Lisbon!

Restaurant Alma by Chef Henrique SĂ  Pessoa

www.alma.co.pt

P/S: Chee also recommends the following restaurants in Lisbon (a list which is by no means exhaustive as we get to try more restaurants in Lisbon in the future):

Solar dos Presuntos

Traditional Portuguese restaurant where we dine in an informal setting. Reservations are necessary. Be forewarned that the restaurant can get noisy as there are many tables and it’s always full to the brim with customers.

Restaurant Eleven

The only restaurant in Lisbon that’s featured in the Relais & ChĂąteaux guide. The view over the Edward VII park is probably one of the best views from a restaurant in Lisbon. Chee suggests going for lunch as the lunch menu is very reasonably priced (EUR 38 for three courses with two glasses of wine).

A Travessa

It may be difficult to find the restaurant as it’s situated in a small street but once you enter and find yourself in the charming surroundings (the restaurant is housed in a former convent), you would know that the search was worth it. The restaurant serves up Portuguese cuisine with international influences. Definitely worth a try though it can be pricey.

Keukenhof’s Flower Power

Driving around the Netherlands from the months of March to May strikes me as driving next to a water painting. Various flowers including the tulip, the unofficial symbol of the Netherlands, blossom and the Dutch fields turn into a large garden.

Imagine the field as the background of a painting and each row of blooming flowers, be it in red, purple, yellow, pink, orange etc, come across as large strokes of paint drawn over the field. A visual sight to behold.

For those who want a closer look at the flowers, Keukenhof, located in the small town of Lisse, is a must-visit destination. Imagine a sprawling 32 hectares (0.32km2) garden filled with 4.5 million tulips in 100 varieties before your eyes.

One can (easily) spend an entire afternoon exploring Keukenhof with its 15km of footpaths and millions of flowers on display.

Note: This may not be an activity suited for men as Bolly and my brother clearly had enough of flowers after one hour of walking around the garden and insisted that all the flowers looked the same. I guess the flowers must have looked all jumbled up to them at the end of our 4-hour visit…

P/S: Keukenhof‘s last day for this season is on 20 May 2012!