Friday, January 25, 2013

Off to the French Alps

We are leaving in a few hours. We will be going to the same ski area we went to last year but will be staying in a different village. Dutchman and I loved the slopes here because they are a kilometre wide!

This is the ski village. Just look at how wide the slopes here are.

We have visited this village last year, Dutchman several times, while I, I think twice in the afternoon. It was a rather quick visit as it is located at the other side of the mountain range where we were staying. The ski lifts connecting both mountain villages closes at 4PM sharp, so we were always in a hurry.

Nevertheless, I will be blogging during the holidays, internet connection permitting.

On other news, this weekend the whole Netherlands will be ice skating on the frozen lakes. Here is a Volkskrant article (Dutch) about the ice skating tours this weekend all over the country starting today Friday: Schaatstochten trekken 50.000 recreaten (Ice skating tours attracts 50,000 holidaymakers)

See you in the French Alps!

Travel Period: January-February 2012
Destination: French Alps

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fruits de Mer at Hotel New York Rotterdam

After much googling of possible cool with great reviews places to eat seafood in Rotterdam, I came across Hotel New York’s Oyster (& Seafood) Bar. Ah, give me seafood anytime and I am a very happy island gal.

Fruits de Mer at the Oyster Bar

Platter of Fruits de Mer.

Souvenir shop of vintage items at the Hotel New York Rotterdam located beside the entrance of the restaurant. 

So glad MadamE could join me for Saturday lunch when I was staying in Rotterdam for a weekend. She told me that she had some clairvoyance moment, that she was picturing herself eating seafood very soon. Well she’s right.

We arrived at the height of lunch time and it took awhile before we were led to our table. This place is incredibly buzzing! It is hands down a super popular place for people from all walks of life to lunch during weekends. I cannot blame them really because the Oyster Bar alone is enough to tempt and beckon seafood lovers like moi.

Finally we were seated and pouring over the lunch menu.

Cheers for chardonnay!

It didn’t take a long time to decide what lunch will be. MadamE beamed in delight when I ordered the fresh seafood platter, ‘Plateau Fruits de Mer’. Oooooh, we cannot wait.

While waiting for the seafood bounty, our Chardonnay drinks arrived. Cheers! Proost!

Busy preparing for our fresh seafood platter?

And here she is. Plateau Fruits de Mer. Love.

I wished I ordered an extra half dozen of fresh oysters.

Creme Brulee

For desserts, we both had creme brulee which was quite good. Creamy, and the sweetness is bearable. Then I had coffee of course as well. Lunch is not complete without this.

I love the ‘Oyster Bar’ at Hotel New York Rotterdam. I can come here every week!!! I will definitely come back.

Hotel New York Rotterdam

Here’s some history of Hotel New York Rotterdam, excerpt taken from their website:

“In earlier times, many Europeans escaped poverty and/or religious persecution by leaving from Rotterdam. These emigrants usually left for North America, hoping for a better life. In 1873 the Nederlandsch Amerikaanse Stoomvaart Maatschappij company was founded, officially renamed ‘Holland America Line’ in 1896. Emigrants embarked in Rotterdam in large numbers, most of them debarking in New York City on arrival in the ‘Promised Land’ of America.

In 1971, after more than 100 years of transporting passengers, the Nieuw Amsterdam left the city on the Maas for its last crossing. An important episode in Rotterdam’s nautical history had come to an end.”

The New York Hotel Rotterdam was previously Holland America Line’s headquarters. And New York City, USA was previously called New Amsterdam.

And the pictures of this bygone yesteryears hotel:

So there, some history lesson about Rotterdam. The hotel, a bit nostalgic isn’t she?

It was a lovely fresh seafood lunch and catch up with MadamE that spontaneously got extended to having tea in North Brabant.

Travel Period: January 2012
Destination: Rotterdam (South Holland), The Netherlands

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Below Zero Netherlands

It’s been antartica here in the Netherlands. For 2 weeks already. This is what it’s like living inside the fridge.

My lease car from work died on me the other day. I think the cold triggered the problem. I haven’t heard from the garage yet. It looks like they are struggling to find out what is wrong with the car. In the meantime I’m driving a loaner car.

My other private car is doing fine. We make sure to turn it on and drive the car to the in-laws in the weekends so that it won’t die like the last time. If a car is left unattended for a longer period of time, especially during winter in below zero conditions, it will eventually die, albeit temporarily.

I had a stroll with my client during their lunch break. In Dutch we call it, ‘We gaan even een frisse neus halen.’ This means, ‘Let’s go get some fresh air.’ However, if literally translated it should say, ‘Let’s go get some fresh nose.’ Hehe.

These things, the nuances in the language, you only get to learn in time. After 10 years in this country, my Dutch is fluent. I conduct business in Dutch. I think in Dutch. When I speak English, I throw in Dutch words. But I still learn everyday many things... from new words, new sayings to ways of expressing and writing my thoughts in proper Dutch. Of course, I have an accent, and I have grammar blunders and insecure moments too.

But if I compare myself to other foreigners who have been here for 10 years and more, I think I did very good. My clients and business partners do not believe I’m just 10 years in this country, so that is a good sign. But I tell you, getting to this level with my Dutch wasn’t an easy walk in the park. I have to work VERY HARD for it and I still am actually.

This was taken earlier this afternoon between Dongen and Tilburg.

On other news, we have finished packing about 80% tonight for our upcoming wintersport holiday in the Alps. This will be a whole week of skiing (moi) and snowboarding (Dutchman). Come Friday the holiday feeling will hopefully sink in.

Travel Period: January 2013
Places: Utrecht, Maastricht, Tilburg – The Netherlands

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Running in Petrusse Valley, Luxemburg

I mentioned awhile back that I have stopped running because I hated this sport. I really do hate it but it seems that this is the only sport that I can do and tolerate in order to keep myself in shape. Plus you get some fresh air, which is a bonus. I am 42 years old and my metabolism has slowed down in the last 10 years and it has only become worse as I enter into serious middle age.

No makeup on. Just curious, would you wear make up when running?

I do watch what I eat, not religiously though and sometimes I cannot help but indulge. It helps that I am not a big meat eater and I am not into sweets, bread and baked goods. I love fruits and vegetables!

Anyway, I have since went back to running and I do this during the weekends. I am also alternating it with dancercise at home. It is a combination of dancing + exercising with music on headphones for proper concentration. These two types of physical activity are the only ones that I can endure. The gym is not for me really. I am too lazy to pack my stuff in a bag and go after work. Moreover, I don’t like the idea that I am sharing the place with strangers who are sweating the whole night.

So when I was in Luxembourg, I went running on a Sunday morning in the Petrusse Valley. I was not the only person who had the same idea but it wasn’t busy at all.

I took some pictures of course...

One of these dogs came up to me while I was sitting on the bench. I almost screamed, lol. You never know if the dog will bite you. When I was a little girl, I was bitten by the doberman of our neighbour.

A walkway under the bridge.

If you are not into running, going for a walk here would be the next best thing to do, especially during the warmer months when the valley is rich in flora. A nice picnic would do as well.

Travel Period: January 2013
Destination: Luxemburg City, Luxemburg

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What I did on a Saturday in Luxembourg City

Luxemburg (or Luxembourg) City is a very small cosmopolitan city. It is a trilingual city, locals speak French, German and Luxemburgisch. I guess it should be quadringual if you throw in English into the equation which most people speak anyway.

The country has a reputation of being a tax haven which is the reason why it is rich in the first place.

Now, many people who come to visit the Grand Duchy find themselves wondering where to go, what to see and what to do here other than shopping. Shopping in Luxembourg is definitely better than PC Hooftstraat in Amsterdam, and that is if you are into signature labels. But other than that, in order to enjoy this city, you really need to know where to go.

The easiest resource in order to get to know the city would be Luxemburg Tourism’s website and of course some intensive googling, which is the reason why I blog my travels in detail; experience by experience and bit by bit. It is my way of giving back to the travel world for all the great advice I received online.

Nevertheless, I was planning to do some art viewing but realised I was too lazy to stare at other people’s works so I stuck to my fall back plan—go slow, walk around, do nothing, just be free. I need this wandering aimlessly to de-stress and recharge myself. It helps empty my mind when I do not have a plan and when I do not think of serious stuff, like work.

Well I did went to the Grund as planned but other than this, I just went with the flow. Here’s what I did.

First thing that I did was to check in to my hotel, Le Place d’Armes Hotel on Place d’Armes. I have a very strategic home base to explore the city. Place d’Armes is the heart of Luxembourg City.

Then I chilled out at Cafe de Paris located just beside the hotel with a glass of port and did my favourite pastime, people watching. The city and women are quite fashionable, just my kind of style--classy, with taste. Of course expensive, but not show off.

Checked out the Grand Ducal Palace along the way of course.

When I am wandering around aimlessly, I love to look at delicatessen and bakery shops. Sometimes I buy something, sometimes not, but it gives me warmth to see the lovely delights on the window display. It was Three Kings when I was there and this deli-patisserie shop and restaurant called Kaempff-Kohler comes highly recommended. A must visit if you are a foodie.

Place Guillaume is a big square you will not miss.

Another square you will not miss, Place de Clairefontaine. The Notre Dame Cathedral is located just beside this square.

I was curious of the cathedral of course so I went inside to take a peek. Majority of Luxemburgers are Roman Catholics including the royal family.

Then I went to visit the Grund. I wanted to book my dinner reservation at Mosconi and have pre-dinner drinks at Scott’s Pub. It turned out that Mosconi was closed so I just walked around the little commune and consoled myself at Scott’s with a glass of sparkling wine. Dinner will have to be somewhere else.

Then I went back to the city centre and passed by Place de Clairefontaine again. The squares here in Luxemburg city are very bright and sparkling at night.

My wandering led me to the shopping lanes and surprisingly there were still shops open. What happened? Naturally I shopped. I am an accidental shopper; I only shop when the opportunity is in front of me. I bought stuff at Vicomte A and Massimo Duti, two of the very few shops that were open late.

I was debating with myself if I should just eat at my hotel’s restaurant, La Cristallerie or look somewhere else, when I saw La Lorraine on Place d’Armes. The restaurant looks inviting from the outside and there were many people dining already which is positive. In addition, the French menu didn’t sound shabby at all. This will do.

Delicious pumpkin soup.

Escargot! Garlic buttered snails. They are so delectable. I can do another serving really.

My main: Salmon with sea snails, cooked egg and vegetables. This was nice except for the vegetables--dry and overcooked.

No desserts for the evening but a little cup of espresso. Service at La Lorraine is top comparable to real fine dining restaurants.

Place d’Armes at night. A quick stroll on the square after dinner.

Then it is time to call it a night, and go back to my hotel. I will be pampering myself with a nice hot bath.

Travel Period: January 2013
Destination: Luxemburg City, Luxemburg

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