Thursday, 12 October 2017

Brussels Guide

Elisabeth Chocolatier's window display.
If I had to pick two words to describe Belgium, those two words would be: chocolate and waffles. I kid you not, every single street had some sort of chocolatier or waffle shop. I could easily say the capital Brussels smelled deliciously sweet. Most of my Euros went into buying chocolate souvenirs for family and friends, or eating waffles - there were no regrets there, because why wouldn't you indulge yourself in famous Belgian chocolates and waffles?

Waffles from Chez Albert!
Even if you don't plan on buying chocolate, being inside the countless chocolatiers in Brussels is an experience itself. Just the smells, the sheer amount and different varieties of chocolates available is a great thing to be immersed in. Look out for these chocolatiers (you'll probably spot them without much searching to be honest, they're literally everywhere): Godiva, Leonidas, Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus - they're the ones who created the chocolate praline!! and Elisabeth. If you want something sweet, but not chocolate, the super famous Maison Dandoy is a great Belgian biscuit shop.

Brugge - Cafe and Grote Markt
My friend and I went to Belgium over the weekend, Friday to Sunday. The three days were more than enough time to explore the city of Brussels as well as ventured out to Brugge for the day. Brugge was a cute little town, about an hour away by train from Brussels. Grote Markt, which is the central square in Brugge, was the epitome of Belgium's three cultures and languages, Dutch, French and German, seen most in their architecture. We had a super long lunch at a cute little cafe in Brugge, where we talked about food, travel, boys and life. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the cafe, but I do remember the lively atmosphere, the extremely kind and talkative owner who ran everything on her own, and eating the most amazing green pea soup and cheese croquettes. 

Grande Place
The two places you're bound to visit in Brussels are Grand Place, the main city square, and Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, a stunning shopping arcade. Expect beautiful architecture that takes influence from the Dutch, the French and the Germans, chocolatiers, sweet shops, cafes, waffle shops and stands, and a lively sophisticated atmosphere. Brussels isn't all chocolatiers, although it may seem like that, they also have a nice selection of cafes or brasseries. Le temps de tartines is great for breakfast, and Nuetnigenough is great for lunch or dinner. Make sure to try Belgian beer! I almost forgot, the Belgian fountains. Oh wow, we had a real hard laugh over the famous Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a boy peeing into a fountain basin, and his less famous sister Jeanneke Pis.  Although the statue's size doesn't really amount to how famous the landmark is (reportedly leaving some tourists disappointed) I still thought that Manneken Pis was a must see in Brussels. His sister is harder to find though, she's tucked away in a small street away from her brother, she was so obscured by the gate that we walked past her several times trying to find her. 

Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert

I think the best thing about Belgium is that it's a little bit Dutch, a little bit French and a little bit German. It's a small city, and you don't need many days to explore the main part of the city, which makes it the perfect option for a weekend getaway. It's lively and not too busy, and surprisingly, it had an unassuming sophisticated and eloquent atmosphere. If I ever find myself back in Belgium, I'd like to see what Antwerp is like!

Monday, 9 October 2017

Madrid Guide

Before the start of the semester, I took an impromptu trip to Madrid with a new friend. We literally planned and booked everything the day before we left. We had a week off, so we wanted to make the most of our semester exchange. My most favourite part of the UK and Europe, is that it's just this huge cluster of all sorts of different countries and cultures, making it easy to travel to another country. That's one thing Australia lacks, we're so isolated and far away from the rest of the world!

Sofia Renia Museum

Del Prado Museum

Although we adapted the local's lifestyle for that week, we did manage to pack in touristy activities. As first time visitors, we went to the must-sees of Madrid. For art galleries, Sofia Reina Museum and Del Prado Museum are super great to bask in beautiful works and culture. The museums are huge though, so plan wisely if you're short on time, it's too easy to just lose yourself in the countless artworks they have on display. 

Plaza de Mayor

Basilica of San Fransico el Grande

Plaza Mayor, Royal Palace of Madrid, Santa Maria la Real de La Almundena and Basilica of San Fransico el Grande were sightseeing spots that really accentuated the beauty of Spanish architecture and art. We didn't get to go into the Royal Palace of Madrid, as it was closed off to the public for a special event, but we did manage to catch a glimpse of the Spanish king, King Felipe, during his procession into the palace!

Santa Maria la Real de La Almundena

For food, although it was packed and one of the biggest tourists attractions in Madrid, I can't recommend Mercado de San Miguel highly enough. Just the atmosphere itself was enough to excite me, it was noisy, busy and fast-paced, and not to mention the countless options of delicious food. We went there twice for lunch, and it was easily my favourite place to eat during our trip to Madrid. The two times we went there, I got food from a stall called La Casa del Bacalao. They sold toasts with different types of toppings, with a focus on fresh seafood. It was simple and delicious, and it was, to me, the essence of what Spanish food is. 

Food from Mercado de San Miguel

Madrid has many, many parks, which in my opinion, were perfect for our afternoon siestas. Parque Retiro is a great place to take a leisurely nap and people watch. It was a busy park, with fountains, street vendors and performers, but the size of the park made it so that we were able to find a nice, spacious and quiet place to rest and watch the world go by. Another park that we went to was Casa de Campo, this park was so, so, big, perhaps too big. However, it was still a lovely place with boating lakes and streams. 

Parque Retiro at sunset.
Although it wasn't my first time to Spain (I visited Barcelona back in 2013), I had never been to the capital of Madrid. As expected, the weather was beautiful. We went in October, and I'd highly recommend travelling to Spain around this time, our week there was filled with blue skies and warm rays of sun, making it the weather perfect for taking an afternoon siesta in one of the many parks in Madrid. I swear 70% of our trip consisted of taking naps outdoors. Madrid was laid back that way, we could take our time doing whatever we wanted, eat slowly and talk for ages, wake up with the sunrise instead of an alarm clock and wander around at a slow pace. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Weekly Photoset | Six Days in Madrid

For those reading my blog, if there are actually any of your out there, you may or may not know that I'm currently on study exchange at the University of Leicester in UK for a semester. It's been about a month since I came and it's just been amazing. I won't go in to much detail about the exchange side of things, I might make a separate post for that later on because what I want to focus on is Spain, Madrid in particular. The week before classes formally started, I went on six day trip to Madrid with a new friend. The whole situation was crazy, I had only known my friend and my flatmate, who is also on a semester exchange from South Korea, for a few days, and we organised, planned and decided everything in a period of a few hours the day before we were due to fly out. Everyone thought we were crazy. But it didn't stop us, it was such a good opportunity.

It wasn't my first time in Spain, as I visited Barcelona three years ago, but it was my first time to Madrid. The thing I love most about Spain is that everything is so laid-backed. The six days we had in Madrid was filled with warm sunlight and taken at a slow pace, with numerous naps and moments of comfortable silence in between. We booked an Airbnb in the suburb of Lavapies that had the most amazing views. I highly recommend the Lavapies and Embajadores district in Madrid, there were countless bars, tapas places and all sorts of food available, the buildings were especially beautiful. Madrid is one of those places that doesn't require a morning alarm, you just wake up to the natural sunlight. In retrospect, I can't believe I was actually there, it feels like it was a dream. Madrid was so beautiful, the buildings, the colours especially. All the buildings had cast iron railings, and was coloured in warm hues. When the sunlight bounced off the walls, the whole of Madrid was sun soaked.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Vegetarian and Vegan Food in the Perth Hills | Genesis in the Hills

If you find yourself up in the Perth Hills and looking for something wholesome and veggie based to eat, look no further than Genesis in the Hills. Although rather expensive, the food, coffee, people and surroundings makes this establishment a great place for breakfast, brunch or lunch. I had the full breakfast ($25.00) that came with sourdough bread, two poached eggs, aioli grilled mushrooms, grilled tomato, potato rosti, steamed greens, caramelised onions and canellini bean dip. The eggs were poached beautifully with a liquidy golden centre and everything on the plate was enjoyable and yummy. The highlight was definitely the mushrooms and the caramelised onions that were packed with flavour. My mum had the Piadina ($24.00) which was toasted housemade tortilla filled with eggplant, sundried tomatoes, potatoes, kalamata olives tepanade on top of caramelised onion, white bean dip and a garden salad. Being in the hilly area of Perth, Genesis in the Hills is a great restaurant to relax and unwind, we sat outside and the surrounding trees and nature was soothing and a great change to the city.

Genesis in the Hills Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Kinky Lizard Espresso Bar | East Perth

We went to Kinky Lizard Espresso Bar in East Perth as a sort of good bye brunch as I'm going to the UK for study exchange. One thing to note is that breakfast ends at 12pm, although they do have a few breakfast items available for lunch like my smashed avocado on toast that came with a generous amount of avocado, cottage cheese, polenta and pine nuts (although I swear I saw pistachio written on the menu). It was the perfect portion and balance of elements. We also had the felafel burgers that came in toasted pita bread and a side of chunky chips. This dish was filling and so delicious. The best thing about Kinky Lizard is definitely the coffee. The barista who made our coffee knows how to treat soy milk properly, the milk was smooth, the perfect temperature and the foam was silky.

Kinky Lizard Espresso Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato