Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A day in the life of Dutched Pinay

When I am not travelling abroad part-time, I am still travelling within the country (Netherlands including Belgium) full-time.

Next week will be a heavy week with Maastricht again and Belgium on the list among other places. Anyway, I have always loved driving. It gives me the rush, the freedom and I actually look forward to long drives. I just need to watchout for speed cameras otherwise I will end up paying lots of penalties every month!

Picture of my car's GPS was taken today during mid day after my first meeting and a quick lunch in Amstelveen (beside Amsterdam). I have simulated here the route for my next meeting in the south of the country which is in Eindhoven. February 2012

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chocolate making in Brussels at the Planete Chocolat

Brussels is the chocolate centre of the world and I had the chance to attend a chocolate making session in the European capital last month.

If you have been reading this blog, you would know of my penchant for anything else other than sweets. Now, I was in Brussels for work, and after the business meeting we were given the option to participate in a beer tasting session or a chocolate making session.

I was quite confused about the agenda actually as it was a last-minute surprise, thus I ended up following the women to another location where the chocolate making session is held. Had I known about the beer tasting option, I would have changed course.

We first had a chocolate history lesson and some chocolate snacking. Afterwards we were asked to dress in plastic gowns, plastic head caps and plastic shoe covers before we start the actual hands-on activity. The whole dressing up process was like a déjà vu to me. More than a decade ago I used to sell enterprise software applications and services to the manufacturing industry in the Philippines. By protocol, visitors to these production sites are covered head to toe with head caps, lab gowns, and shoe covers. This was a standard ritual for me back then.

Anyway, we proceeded to the basement of Planete Chocolat and started the chocolate making session.

Honestly, I don’t think I paid any attention at all. I was too busy taking pictures and just going along with the flow to have a good comprehension of the whole chocolate making process, haha.

It was a nice event though. At the end of the chocolate making session we were treated to a hot cup of chocolate drink. We were also able to bring home the chocolates we made. A handy present for the Dutchman.


Most of these pictures were taken by my Nokia Mini phone and a few from my iPhone.

Travel Period: January 2012

Nespresso mania, just a fading trend?

The Netherlands is without a doubt a coffee country. Tea as well. Fact is, the Netherlands was the first country to trade coffee beans (and tea leaves). The amount of coffee drank in this country is just incredible, unimaginable even. In the recent years though, gourmet coffee has managed to sneak in slowly but surely into the kitchens of the average Dutch. This started with the outdated Philips Senseo and now, the most sought-after, Nespresso.

At my workplace here in the Netherlands we have a big Nespresso machine. At our EMEA headquarters in Geneve we have a much bigger Nespresso machine that fits to a wall. Because I am in field sales I am not always in the office, but when I am, I make sure to take a cup or two or three a day—usually espresso. At my customers and business partners they normally serve me Douwe Egberts which I do not mind at all.

When travelling, I have my guaranteed daily dose of espresso fix at lovely cafes matched with some people watching.

At home though, I rarely drink coffee. I have my special tea for breakfast and for after dinner. However lately, I have been thinking of buying a Nespresso machine to address those rare days that I am craving for a shot of black goodness espresso at home.

The Dutchman on the other hand is the only Dutch man in the Netherlands that drinks instant coffee—Nescafe. Most Dutch would not even touch this, lol.

So I went to Bijenkorf Utrecht last weekend to have a look and feel of these coffee machines and this is what I found:

Ah, there seems to be no recession here at Bijenkorf. Business is doing very well. There is always an unbelievably long line here every weekend at the Nespresso corner. People are ready to put out extra money for gourmet coffee.


Nevertheless, I am still not sure if I should buy a Nespresso machine. Well, don’t get me wrong. I am a coffee lover but its seems that my love for coffee is inevitably only at work and when I am travelling. So we shall see... in the meantime, I will check out the china department for ideas of my next set.

Here is a TRIVIA:

‘Did you know that the most expensive coffee in the world is found only in the Philippines (Kape Alamid) and Indonesia (Kopi Luwak)? Its called CIVET coffee in English.’

I'm going to grab one when I am back in Asia towards the end of the year.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

A meeting at the Belgian Beer Museum in Brussels

Last month I was in Brussels for work and we had a meeting at the first floor of the Belgian Beer Museum (no. 10—the ‘den Gulden Boom’ building) on the Grote Markt (Grand Place). It’s a gorgeous building, it’s façade adorned with gilded elaborate designs.

I’ve been to Brussels many times and I’ve seen Brussels at its loveliest. January wasn’t the best month though as I was met with rain and overcast.

After the business meeting, we had a short beer history lesson in the basement of the building. Like many beer museum visits, I was really expecting a beer tasting session afterwards but unfortunately that did not happen, well, not at least right away. In fact I was quite confused on what's next on the agenda and I accidentally followed the women who were going to the chocolate making session held a few blocks away. I did not know that the beer tasting session is at the same building but at the first floor where we earlier had the business meeting. Oh well.

If I was to turn back the clock, I would have stayed for some beer. Anywho, I was able to taste a locally brewed trappist beer during lunch though.

And to be honest, I don’t think I will recommend quickly a visit to this Beer Museum. There are so many notable beer breweries and outstanding abbeys where a grand beer tour and tasting, are in my opinion, better experienced.

Here are a few pictures of the Grote Markt (Grand Place) on a gloomy January day.

View to the Grote Markt / Grand Place from the Belgian Beer Museum building

Belgian beer history lesson

More buildings on Grote Markt / Grand Place.

The Belgian Parliament.

One thing I would like to add... traffic in and around Brussels is HORRIBLE. The only advantage in going by car to Brussels is parking. A whole day parking costs only 14,50 EUR. For this amount you pay under 3 hours parking in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Travel Period: January 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Driving down the French Alps

Our winter sport holiday is now definitely over.

Normally it takes about 15 minutes’ drive from our chalet hotel in Le Crey to the valley in Aigueblanche, however with the snow aftermath and cars driving slowly, it’s about half an hour.

On the way down we saw busy locals manually ploughing the snow on the streets. We also passed by a bus that went off the road. Tough situation I reckon. Lots of dangerous things can happen after a heavy snowfall, especially in the mountains.



Convoying: driving slowly down the alpine zig-zagged road.



The bus that went off the road.

Here are the videos I took as we drove down the zigzagged alpine road:



It was a picturesque alpine drive. The mountains were immaculate and it was a bit hard to say goodbye after a week of winter (sport) holiday in this lovely part of the world. But life goes on and we will be both back to work on Monday. Welcome reality.

When we reached the valley, Dutchman and I saw the French police barricading the other side of the road and checking every car. No car is allowed to trek up the mountains without snow chains on. Its a standard protocol in the mountains when its snowing and after a snow deluge.

As we drove on the valley, we searched for a place where we can remove the snow chains from the car’s tires. Unfortunately removing the chains took us a while because these got stuck between the wheel. Nevertheless, perseverance paid off but not without increased blood pressures. Grrr. Sigh.



Removing the snow chains upon reaching the valley.



Beautiful castle ruins along the highway on the valley.

Driving back to the Netherlands was uneventful. We took turns driving, dropped by at a McDonalds for a quick eat (I do not like burgers so chicken McNuggets please) and we arrived home before midnight.

It was a loooooooong drive having left around 11 in the morning and there was only 1 thing that I wanted to do when we got home—Sleep.

Travel Period: January 2012
Destination: Le Crey (Savoie - Rhone-Alpes), France

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The snow aftermath in the French Alps

Snow continued to fall the whole day and until into the evening on our last day in the French Alps. We survived the almost 3 hours torment under freezing temperatures of fitting the snow chains on the car’s tires. Halellujahs in order!

Sadly,the ski holiday is coming to an end. Our last night at the chalet hotel was actually very nice. We had drinks at the bar followed with some soup with our new found acquaintances, then we moved to our tables and a 3-course dinner was served. The whole evening was spiced up with lively conversations and laughs. All in all it was a great closing of the holiday with great company. Meanwhile, snow kept falling outside and we were a bit worried about the aftermath, mainly because the next day is our departure day back to the Netherlands.

After breakfast in the morning we packed up and when we went outside... oh dear, look at what we have found: the car totally snowed in! lol

Thus, shovelling ensued! I thought it was fun. But before we started shovelling the snow, Dutchman and I took pictures of the snow aftermath, of our surroundings in Le Crey.

Ah, Le Crey and its surroundings was a lovely sight that morning. So pure, so immaculate, so pristine. It was just so beautiful. I did not want to leave right away!

Here are the pictures we took, starting with the scenes at the back of the chalet hotel early in the morning:

The chalet hotel:

Ploughing the snow:

Views from the chalet hotel:

Travel Period: January 2012

Destination: Le Crey (Savoie - Rhone-Alpes), France


Mirror, mirror on the wall, can you see me at all?

When you are wearing a burka and you pose for pictures, what is there to see?

It’s a bit funny and I am not mocking the woman in this burka okay so hopefully no one will jump on me with a politically correct statement. It’s just that there is nothing to see in the picture except for a woman in black head to foot with a slit opening for her eyes. I mean, hello?

This was taken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the other week.

Travel Period: Febraury 2012

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

A fireplace and a reblochon salad at La Marmite and fitting the snow chains for almost 3 hours!

After my eventful last skiing day in Valmorel, I called the Dutchman who is left at the chalet hotel nursing a hurt arm after a fall the other day. It’s been snowing all day and the roads are covered thick with snow. I knew that it would be injudicious for me to drive the car back to the chalet hotel without installing the snow chains.


So while waiting for the Dutchman to get to Valmorel town centre, I looked for a cosy restaurant to have lunch. I found La Marmite Restaurant located under Hotel du Bourg and the arch. When I stepped inside I was warmly greeted by a glowing fireplace. Outside is snowing cats and dogs and a fireplace is just what I needed at this very moment.

I settled myself quickly beside the fireplace and ordered a ‘Reblochon chaud sur pain perdu’ (salade with stewed tomatoes, French toast and hot reblochon cheese) and paired it with ‘Lapero de maison’ (rose wine with raspberry and blueberry cream) for my drink.

The salad and reblochon French toast was nice, 4 stars out of 5 but the lapero de maison drink, oh, it was a soaring 5 stars. Wonderful drink. Reblochon by the way is a local cheese in the French Alps.

Dutchman ate lunch at the chalet hotel so when he arrived he just ordered coffee.


Afterwards we went down to the parking lot and saw the car in a snowed-in state. I am really glad I called the Dutchman because there is no way I am driving the car without the snow chains on! That would be suicide, and that is if the French police will not first catch me and issue a ticket. When it is snowing in the Alps, every car (does not matter if you have winter tires on) must have snow chains installed. And I need the Dutchman to help me install them.

And the struggle begins with fitting the snow chains on the tires...

So we began fitting the snow chains on the car’s tires... 10 minutes turned to 30 minutes, then it turned to an hour, then 2 hours… by this time Dutchman and I were covered in snow, we were cold and our hands were freezing, moreover, we were about to pull each other’s hair. Why are these snow chains not fitting on the tires!? Why is it so damn difficult!? ARGHHH. And by the way, it is getting dark.

And already dark here... this picture was taken when we were almost done... after nearly 3 hours!

Needless to say, we were utterly desperate, extremely frustrated and absolutely exasperated. We have no choice but to continue on until we are able to fit the snow chains on the car’s tires.

The light at the end of the tunnel came after nearly 3 hours of struggling to fit them together. WHEWWWW. What a relief! Now we can go back to the chalet hotel and have some drinks to recover from the ordeal.

Travel Period: January 2012
Destination: Valmorel (Savoie - Rhone-Alpes), France

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