Friday, September 30, 2011

Damrak and shopping in Bijenkorf, Amsterdam

Friday at work is our casual dress day but if I have a client call I am usually in formal business attire. As a person, my style tends to lean towards classic, so even if I dress casual, I still look a bit formal. I can never do t-shirts and rubber shoes. When I wear jeans I always pair it up with high heels otherwise I would feel naked.

It is officially autumn in the Netherlands but today we had summer. Actually, for the whole week we had summer temperatures which is of course a delight to us as we don’t often have clear skies and sunny weather. I had a client visit today but I was not in the mood to dress up business formal because of the warm weather. Yesterday I wore my usual business outfit and I was sweating like a pig. Pffft!

Anyway, after work today I went to Bijenkorf in Amsterdam to buy the item I have been eyeing for since last weekend.


Shopping in Bijenkorf today.


I saw this particular item last week in Bijenkorf Utrecht and when I came back yesterday to buy it, it was gone. I was told by the sales girl that there are only 2 left in the whole of Bijenkorf in the Netherlands and they are in Amsterdam. I was already thinking of buying the thing online direct from the designer’s website but I hate to think of the duties and taxes plus the hassles of picking up the item since I am never at home during the day.

Got to Bijenkorf Amsterdam and saw the thing and it is the last one! Whew, I bought it. It was Dwaze Dagen in Bijenkorf and the sales ladies and gentlemen were all dressed in funny characters in yellow. Unfortunately the item I bought was not part of the Dwaze Dagen discount.

Parked the car in Q-Park/Bijenkorf which is as usual unbelievably expensive. I paid 12 EUR for just 2.5 hours park.

I also took a few fotos of Damrak. This area of Amsterdam is always teeming with people and cyclists. The Damrak is the street where the trams pass from the Dam Square leading to Amsterdam Centraal (Train) Station.

Last Tuesday I was here in Amsterdam in the same area and in fact we parked at Q-Park/Bijenkorf as well. I had dinner with colleagues from Geneve and the Netherlands in Brasserie Harkema which is located in Nes street, just a few minutes’ walk from Damrak. I was too busy talking during dinner I forgot to take fotos. Well, when I am dining with colleagues and business partners I rarely take fotos anyway.

My rating for the food at Harkema: Cesar Salad—4 stars, Grilled Tuna—4.5 stars, Tiramisu—4.5 stars. The place is quite big, modern and trendy however it doesn’t offer a cosy ambiance. It’s more like a business restaurant. Well, we ate there for business anyway.

Here are a few fotos in Damrak:


This is the Dam square crossing.


The Damrak is the main street and tramway connecting the Dam square and Amsterdam Centraal Station.


Amsterdam Centraal Station by architect Pierre Cuypers.

Visit Period: September 2011
Destination: Amsterdam Centrum (Amsterdam - North Holland), The Netherlands

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

People Watching in Place du Molard, Geneva

Our company’s European headquarters is about 15+ minutes by tram to Geneve city centre. Taking public transport like the tram is the best option in Geneva as it is free. You get a free tram ticket upon checking in at the hotel.

So after work on a Friday, I went to the city centre together with my Egyptian colleague. He’s quite well travelled but it’s his first time in Geneve. I told him I am going to the city centre to shop and if he wants to come along I will buy him a drink in town. He obliged.

We both had rose while enjoying Europe’s favourite pastime, people watching. I wanted to take more pictures of people, especially the well-dressed Swiss-French women but I got slightly distracted. A glass of wine peppered with a very interesting conversation has definitely won over my camera.

Fotos here:



Travel Period: September 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Best Kebab in Geneva, Switzerland?

On our third night in Geneve, I, together with a few colleagues searched for a restaurant in the city that is not Italian. Swiss cuisine is like Dutch cuisine, they are not famous for it, except for the fondue of course which is best eaten after skiing. Because of this, the Swiss tend to embrace their neighbour’s gastronomic abilities, surprisingly not from the French but from the Italians.

Geneva in my opinion is flooded with Italian restaurants and I am not exaggerating when I say flooded, because literally, in every corner, there is a restaurant that is serving Italian cuisine or related to Italian.

We have had enough of Italian, and this time we were looking for something different. While walking on Rue de la Servette, we saw this Doner Kebab place called ‘Saveurs D’Orient’ located right across Lyon metro stop.


Saveurs d'Orient Doner Kebab.


The boys had another serving.

It’s actually a very humble place, more like a cafeteria and they do not even accept credit cards, just cash. Cheap as well and since we were so hungry from searching on foot for a restaurant other than Italian, we settled for this homey kebab place—easy, fast and a bonus point, it smelled good.

When the kebabs arrived my mouth was watering looking at the crunchy meat. I don’t like to eat meat much but when they are thin, crunchy and well done, I can compromise.

The verdict? 5 stars! I’ve never had kebab this so good! My male colleagues ordered a second round even. This is definitely a runner-up to the best shawarma I had in Wadi Mousa, Jordan. We were told by the locals that the place is one of the best in Geneve.


Here is moi during the day having a ciggy break before we had the kebab at night. Foto taken by a colleague via iPhone. I am a rare social smoker. I do not buy cigarette packs though. I just leech one or two when the company is right.

Travel Period: September 2011
Destination: Geneva, Switzerland

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Typically Swiss in Geneve: Toblerone Sandwich and Raclette

The nearest café restaurant from the office in Geneve is selling some Toblerone. Nope they are not the usual chocolates that we see sold in the airports and grocery stores. They are ‘Toblerone Sandwiches’!


This was my first time to see something like this so naturally I snapped a foto =).

The Toblerone chocolate is melted inside the bread. Didn’t buy this for lunch though. I chose a green salad.

Each day the café restaurant has a theme for the chef’s main course and during the week there was a day that they went local with the Swiss specialty, ‘Raclette’. I was quite tempted to take it but my Swiss colleague told me not to. He said its best to take them somewhere else. He mentioned the name of a restaurant that I could not remember.


At the Movenpick Buffet Restaurant for lunch.


It is usually 4 Swiss cheeses and they are melted. You can eat this (dip) with bread, thin slices of meat and vegetables (potatoes, pickled gherkins and silverskin onions). When eating raclette do not drink water because water can cause the cheese to become thick/solid in your stomach. Drink wine instead.

I was not so sure if I was happy not taking the cheese. The only reason why I didn’t take the raclette for lunch was because I had to pay it upfront at the cashier. Well I am lazy and stubborn, I don’t want to pay upfront so I went to the salad bar instead.

On some days I didn’t have lunch. It is too much for me sitting down in trainings and meetings the whole afternoon. It makes me feel so full and heavy, and sleepy as well.

Travel Period: September 2011
Destination: Geneve, Switzerland

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Geneve at Night: Dinner at Le Lacustre

My first night in Geneve was quite uneventful except for the news that I received at the hotel reception: THEY FOUND MY BAG. I was ecstatic because I dreaded wearing the same clothes the next day. I already bought a few stuff at the nearby Coop store which I really regretted because it cost me a lot of money. Switzerland is not cheap. I do not like unnecessary spending.

Anyway, I was so tired. My body has taken its toll from waking up at 3AM that morning, the nightmares at the airport, the long sessions I had during the day—all I really wanted was to lay on my bed and sleep early. Had dinner at the hotel and went straight to bed. Boring? Heh.

So on the second evening I was a bit adventurous and joined a group of colleagues for dinner at Le Lacustre Restaurant in Geneve town center.

For dinner I had Risotto ai Frutti di Mari, 4 stars out of 5. The wines here though are 5 stars, superb! Service as well is very good, the waiters are nice, attentive and accommodating.


Le Lacustre Restaurant by day.

The Italian restaurant is located right on the banks of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) which is near Place du Molard (just right across), a famous square in Geneva. The terrace is connected to the promenade that is jutting out of the lake. It’s one of the beautiful and perfectly located restaurants in town; on the lake and with a lovely outdoor terrace.

This restaurant also serves sexy wines so for this reason we stayed longer after dinner. The group, as part of the natural process of socialising, decided to move outside to the terrace to further chill out and enjoy the sexy wine. It was a nice evening; dry, not too cold, just fresh. A lovely night full of conversations and laughs.

After saying goodbyes we took the tram going back to our hotel, however, we picked the wrong one. Happens all the time. And the last tram to the direction of our hotel happened to just passed by. The guys blamed me because I was the one chasing the tram. Oh well, the cab it is! Its on my bill.

On the promenade outside Le Lacustre Restaurant with the swans on the lake. Companies must be paying a lot of money to advertise their logo on top of the buildings on the lake. I see the ABN-Amro logo.

Place du Molard at night. I love the lights on the cobble stones.

Cabs are as expensive as in the Netherlands.

Travel Period: September 2011
Destination: Geneva, Switzerland

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Geneve working, bonjour! (and airport nightmares)

The week in Geneve went rather quick. I was very busy; I was in a training and I had several meetings spread throughout the week as well. I have never really posted much about my work life in this blog which is a conscious decision by the way but while on the plane to Geneve, I thought of taking a foto of my daily work outfits, which is not as fashion forward as compared to outfits on other blogs out there. My work outfits are mainly business conservative.

And because I have been busy throughout the week I only remembered to take a foto of my outfit on Friday, the last day. A colleague took a foto of me another day so I’ll wait for that and post soon.

Last day work outfit. I go around at work, at my clients and business partners in similar business outfits. A bit boring but safe =), I try to liven up my outfits with colours sometimes.

My flight, Amsterdam - Geneva was actually at 07:00 Monday. I drove to the airport very early that morning, however, I missed my exit because it was very dark. It was misty and it was raining. I couldn’t see the road and the signs clearly. I ended up entering the private terrain of Schiphol which is only meant for employees. It was a drama because I held up tens of cars waiting for their turn to get into the premises. In order to get inside you must have the employee parking pass. Of course I do not have it. It took some time to get everyone out of the way so I can back up the car and go away. In shame =(

Which meant that I got to P3 Schiphol parking (for long parking) late. Found parking at 311 row which is a loooong walk to the bus pick-up area. Walking under the rain in my business suit, high heels, a large luggage, a hand bag and my work-laptop bag and 1 hand holding the umbrella is a challenge. I thought about P1 and P2 parking at Schiphol but cost-cutting is a priority in many companies nowadays.

When I arrived at Schiphol the queues at the security for Schengen states were a CHAOS. I began to worry about the long lines. There was as well a long line at the self-service baggage drop-off but the lines to the security gates were KILOMETRES long! In short, it took me a frustrating and agonizing 1 hour to stand on the line. I MISSED MY FLIGHT.

Schiphol Amsterdam Airport is the biggest and busiest airport hub in Europe and they only have 1 security gate for all Schengen states? Unbelievable. I thought this is supposed to be a world class airport? Schiphol is a mean jungle on its own if you are not familiar with it. Just from the security gate, it can take 15 to 20 minutes or more to reach your boarding gate. I always see people running every time I am at Schiphol. It is a massive airport.

Anyway, I went to the transfer desk to rebook my flight but since I am on a local within Europe flight I had to wait 45 minutes before being entertained. There were so many people that missed their flights that morning and the international intercontinental passengers who missed their transfer flights were their priority. I did small chat with a man who missed his flight to Helsinki. He said the last time he missed his flight was to Croatia and there was only 1 flight each day so he had to go home.

Now, the nice thing about flying with KLM is they have several flights to Geneve in a day so I was booked for the next flight at 09:30.

Flight was uneventful, an hour and a half. I finally arrived in Geneve and waiting for my luggage to appear at the baggage carousel. There were still more than 30 people waiting for their bags to come out when suddenly the baggage carousel stopped moving. Huh? What is happening?

An airport personnel who speaks little English motioned all of us to go to an office. By this time we knew our bags were missing, they did not make it to the flight. Apparently, there was something wrong with the baggage belts at Schiphol. But I could hardly believe that more than 30 people in the same flight were missing their bags?! It was definitely a WTF moment.

Then a group from a local TV network carrying lights and a camera rushed to the scene to interview people. I hate to be on TV so I avoided them. They eventually came to our line and asked me if I speak French. I said no in an unfriendly way and quickly turned away. Glad I did that because they further interviewed the woman behind me, in English. Geez, I do not want to appear on Geneva TV. Yikes.

For the record, this is my second time that KLM lost my bag. The first time was a flight from Manchester to Amsterdam several years back. I received my bag 2 days later.

After filing a lost luggage report at Geneva Airport, I happen to meet a colleague who was travelling from Cairo via Amsterdam. He was on the same flight and lost his bag as well. He overheard the name of my hotel which is the same hotel he was staying and saw my calling card when I gave it to the airport personnel. Luckily, I got my bag that night, delivered to my hotel. He got his the next day.

Sigh. What a great way to start a work week in a different country.

Although the beds were comfortable, I did not like them because they have rollers underneath and because they are 2 separate beds they slide easily away from each other. I prefer a 1 big bed!

My hotel is located near the airport which is also near to our headquarters. It’s a business hotel and for this price I could have stayed in an upscale lavish boutique hotel. Everything is expensive in Switzerland. To give you an idea, a 2-star hotel for example will cost you 120+ Euros. A 4-star or business hotel would be double the price.

I took the tram every day. It’s just 1-stop to our office. I could have walked but not in my high heels. Geneve Tourism is giving away free public transport cards to tourists and business visitors. You get the card at the hotel during check-in. And recycling is very much alive in Geneva.

The trams are also equipped with video screens showing the route and what the next stop is. Very handy.

I didn’t really took many fotos of Geneve but there will definitely be more stories soon!

Travel Period: September 2011
Destination: Geneva, Switzerland

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Flying to Geneva, Switzerland

Hi, I’m flying to Geneve, Switzerland tomorrow early morning for work. Will be staying there for a week. Will be busy so no sightseeing really unless after work hours. We shall see.

For now I am faced at packing and I am not really in the mood to pack. I guess it’s easier this time as I am bringing business suits, so it’s easy to pick them as they are pairs compared to when travelling for pleasure where you have to think of the mixing and matching thing. I used to like packing, now I am dreading it.

It’s going to be an early morning drive to the airport. YAWN. I hope I can get up early. I’m reminding myself to eat breakfast at home, at 5AM—I don’t like sandwiches for breakfast and KLM serves them for their short distance flights. I’ll have coffee though at the airport and tea during the flight.

See you in Geneve, Switzerland.

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Wild Green Apples and Cultured Red Apples in Beesd

While at Marienwaerdt I wanted to show MadamE the place. I was planning on taking a walk to the klooster (monastery) and the river banks however we did not have enough time on our hands. So instead we went by car.

We actually drove outside of the property. We drove on a narrow winding dike that protects the property from the rising rivers. The dike road was lined up with wild green apples. Being city girls, we were so amazed at the rows and rows of green apple bearing trees.

Further ahead as we reached the nearby village we saw fences of cultured red apples clinging to a stake. Apples seems to be a popular fruit in Geldermalsen area.

Next time when we or I have time I will go to a fruit farm and help pluck the fruits.

Visit Period: September 2011

A visit to Marienwaerdt Landgoedwinkel and Lunch at the Stappelbakker in Beesd

I met up with MadamE for a quick get-together and lunch a week ago. I have just arrived from Ibiza, Spain the night prior and MadamE was not sure if our meet will push through as I forgot to turn on my personal phone. This is what happens when you have 2 mobile phones (1 for work and the other one for personal).



So anyway I called her to inform we are set for the day. I am picking her up at Utrecht Centraal Station and we will go to Marienwaerdt in Beesd, a farm estate that has a pancake restaurant and a brassiere, and a gourmet organic store selling products that are grown and produced in the farm estate. I have been here many times.

Their best-selling item in the store I believe is the Honing Mosterd (Honey Mustard) sauce. They are really good.

Then we had lunch at the pancake restaurant—De Stappelbakker. We chose to sit at the outside terrace where we have the green views. We could hear the noise of the highway without seeing it. The place gives you the countryside feeling but at the same time you can hear the cars.

I chose a hearty tuna green salad and didn’t realize it is going to be huge so I shared it with her. MadamE went for pancakes. Ham, cheese and champignons. For wine, we chose the German Moezel white wine, chilled, from the Rhineland region. I’ve been to the Mosel River and it helps me reminisce of my beautiful trip there years ago.

Time flew so fast, we didn’t realize it was almost 4PM!



So yummy, this salad =)



In the Stappelbakker Pancake House: Lunch, wine and long conversations, they go together.



Marienwaerdt Landgoedwinkel sells organic products grown and produced in the estate. The Honey Mustard sauce is really good.

Travel Period: September 2010
Destination: Beesd (Geldermalsen - Gelderland), The Netherlands

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