My Love Affair

Couple of things you need to know about me.

I am visual, I view the world through my eyes and if I were to lose my sight, that darkness will be something I can never overcome. That is also why I take pictures, to capture moments that will remind me of memories and stories when I need something to fall back on. My personal safety net of adventures to spur me on in my darkest times.

I lose interest in the snap of a finger and once a decision has been made, there’s no looking back. So, fascinate me, teach me something new everyday. Feed my curiosity, quench my thirst for knowledge and you’ll have me wrapped around your little finger.

The easiest way to win my heart – feed me. Literally. A hungry man is an angry man and the same applies for me. Always ask if I’d like some chow aka food, offer me a variety and always eat with me… because sharing is caring.

So, the question is – who has won my heart?

Well, its not so much a who, really, but a what. And since the first encounter, the very first experience, I was smitten. Head over heels, electrifying sparks, you name it, I felt it. So when did it all begin? 2008. Close to home, a bus ride away. I took my first trip without my folks to Genting and thus began my Love Affair with Travel.

Genting may not seem like much to the well-travelled but back in 2008, taking my first trip out of the country, passport in hand, without the parents, I felt empowered and charged. The weather up in the Highlands unlike the heat and humidity of Singapore, I felt as if I had been teleported to a far-off land. For the next 3 days, I held a foreign currency, gambled in the casinos, ate all the junk food I could lay my hands on, rode the rides in the theme park and played dress up. The smile on those pictures clearly exemplifies the sheer state of joy I was in.

And then, in the later part of 2008, upon graduation, I took a larger leap. Korea for a month. This was huge for me. Absolutely foreign land, did not speak the native tongue and in the bitter cold of winter. I was at once excited and scared. The day of lift off, it was one of teary farewells as we took off to the land of kimchi and hanboks. PS. Even back then I was a social media addict.

The travel distance was excruciating long because as students and with no part of the trip funded, we logically chose some of the cheapest tickets which meant long-ish transits [SG-BKK-HK-KR] but we did arrive in Korea safe and sound in the dead of the night. Which, if you ask me, is pretty daunting as there’s nothing worse than arriving in a foreign land, with no knowledge of local tongue in the dead of night. Evidently, we survived, or I wouldn’t be able to share my experience now.

A month long stay in Seoul saw us coping with the winter cold with our tropical bodies, visiting all the museums, galleries, palaces, shopping districts and even working with an agency to test a potential Visit Seoul advertisement for the Singapore market! We got paid USD100 just to watch 3 adverts and the one we taught would work best for our markets. Now, how many people can say they had an experience quite like that?

Since then, I’ve visited many more countries, exposed myself to various new cultures and made many new friends. This love affair for travel is one that has fed my visual eye, curiosity and gut. I’ve also made a commitment to make time and money to travel every year. You see, commitments work like that. You need to invest in it and never, ever regret. That is how I’ve learnt to live my life since 2008. In 2010, as a further investment to the self, I started this blog to document my travels, eats and adventures so that one day if I ever do lose my memory, I hope that this blog will help me regain that consciousness.

Now, that is my Love! for travel expressed as part of my entry for the Love! Tasmania campaign where YOU, YES YOU! can also enter to stand a chance to win an 8 Days 6 Nights trip to Tasmania for 2!

How to participate?

In 100 words or less Express Your Love for what you love in life

  • It could be in the form of a poem, a passage, a song or video – Be as creative as you like.
  • If you can include Tasmania it would help!
  • Entries can include a photo* or video* (30 seconds to 1 minute in length)
  • Note: Image should be sent in jpeg format with less than 1MB. Video should be uploaded to youtube and limit to 30 second to one minute. Please submit your video link only but not the actual video. Please ensure the copyright is solely owned by submitted participant, or copyright is cleared. All images and videos submitted are automatically giving Tourism Tasmania free rights to use for their own marketing purposes.

Entries will be loaded from 13 to 23 February 2012

After approval by Tourism Tasmania administrator the entry will be loaded onto Tourism Tasmania’s DiscoverTasmania facebook page.

Get your friends and family to ‘like’ your entry from 14 to 27 February 2012.

Judging will be undertaken by the following criteria

    * 30% Number of ‘Likes’ received

    * 30% Creativeness of entry

    * 40% Overall Presentation

There will be four sets of winners – one each from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and China and the winners will be announced on 29 February 2012.

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Who’s Down for some Trippin’?

Trippin’ [defined] – taking a trip/ break/ holiday outside of one’s home country. If you thought I meant getting heady and losing your mind, you’re mistaken and I’ve clarified.

That said, I don’t know a single soul who would shy away from an offer like that, unless, of course, that person suffers from Pteromerhanophobia. Big word. No fear. It actually just means the fear of being on an airplane or other flying vehicle.

What if I tell you that all you need to do to win yourself such a trip is to write? Better yet, write about anything under the sun, write about the things you love. You’re sitting up in your chair now aren’t you? I mean how difficult is that? The things you love, you could gush on and on about it and your pals will probably have to shut your trap for over sharing.  So now that you’re interested, take a good hard look at the picture below. Whistling yet?

That, my friends, is Wineglass Bay, Tasmania, Australia [picture from Fancy]. If you’re not mesmerized yet, I really don’t know what to say. When I first saw this image, I was already picturing myself buried in the soft white sand with the cool surf crashing against my body, the sea spray a relief from the white hot sun beating on my face. If you’re having the same visual of yourself in that setting, boy do I have news for you.

In conjunction with Valentine’s Day, Tourism Tasmania is running a contest for you, yes YOU, to submit your words on things you love. On the theme of ‘Express Your Love,’ tell the folks at TourismTasmania about the object of your affection and move them. If you make them laugh, or shed a few tears, you may be well on your way toTasmania for, wait for it, a whopping 8 days and 6 nights! Better yet, you get to bring that special someone or a pal with you. Aren’t you glad you read this post now? Lucky you.

I know you want the full down low now and I shall not keep you waiting any further. Head over to the LOVE! Tasmania microsite now to get all the details you need and start writing and sharing TODAY!

PS. The banner on the right or pictured below [yep, just roll your eyes over a tad rightwards] also takes you to the microsite. Good luck folks!!!

Got Belly?

Its been a long hiatus and its totally my fault. In the new year, I’ve signed a new gym membership, something I’ve never done in my life. I may actually pen a post on gym shopping in Singapore and how I arrived at my selection – Pure Fitness. In this new year, I’ve also inked a new contract, will be taking on a new role, resigning from another and aiming to be a better version of me. Think vs 2.0, as with software updates and such.

This CNY, I’ve eaten one pineapple tart too many and reconnect with relatives I thought I’d never give another shot. How much did you consume and burn this CNY, I sure am hoping you didn’t grow a belly like mine.

PS. I’m not pregnant. Not even close. I promise to keep writing and keep exercising so I can continue stuffing my face.

Le Loir Dans la Théière, 4ème arr, Paris, France

Here’s my confession. Me and sweets, we go a long way back but Maze by Ramsay in London introduced me to the wonder that is citrus based desserts. You see, I’m under the impression I’m a compartmentalised eater. Savoury for mains, sweets for desserts and no room for anything in between. I now know I am wrong. That oft chance that was the lemon combo comprising a lemon refresher, lemon tart, confit lemons, Jersey ripple ice cream at Maze by Ramsay in London changed by compartmentalised eating ways BUT was nothing compared to the experience that was the tarte au citron at Le Loir Dans la Théière.

After shopping the lanes of Rue du Roi de Sicille and circling back to complete Rue des Rosiers in my hunt for vintage goods, it hit me that it was a little after 3pm and we hadn’t had lunch. Referring to my bible of research print outs we decided to check out Le Loir Dans la Théière to hang up our wearied limbs for a rest and to refuel for the day that remained to be unfolded.

I still remain undecided whether my research yield an inaccurate address or the shop had relocated several shopfronts down the street but my word is, as long as you’re on Rue des Rosiers, keep walking until you chance upon a maroon red door close to the intersection that is Rue Pavée.

TIDBIT – translated, Le Loir Dans la Théière is ‘Dormouse in the Teapot’

The cafe is inspired by the fantasy that is Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland and once through, you’ll see and experience the whimsical and the quirky as you pass in the enclosed space.

The touch I was really captivated by was the presentation of the tea time specials in white marker on mirror. We’ve all seen the chalk on board raw presentation but trust the French to bring a touch of elegance, class as well as hygiene to the regular chalk on board write-up.

So, how can you tell the popularity of a place? Easy. The rate at which items sell-out. Arriving at the tail-end of tea meant that there were no mains for us to choose from, lunch service is over ma’am [you should totally know that] and desserts are on display at the counter. We turn, empty plates on display with few to spare. We despaired but wearied and famished as we were, we buckled down and placed our orders. Despite the limited choices, it was a sweet reward. So imagine if you had options.

Starting with beverage, and I know this may come as a surprise to many but a good cuppa of hot chocolate, or au chocolat chaud in French, is a rare find in this capital. From day one, I’ve been on the hunt for that molten richness that would slide down my throat and invigorate my entire system but I had been repeatedly disappointed by cup upon cup of thin, over-creamed versions of hot chocolate. Persevered I did and Le Loir Dans la Théière answered my prayer with a jug so rich it can serve as a meal for an individual with enough to spare. This is a must order if you’re a hot chocolate fan.

The star of the place, the dessert that would make me propose to anyone at all – the famed tarte au citron. Many, I know will say this dessert is overkill. Too sweet, sugar rush, dental troubles and dare I say it? – THE CALORIES. But hey, you and I, we both live once and if you’re gonna count miserable numbers for the rest of your life I feel for you and I’ll eat on your behalf. The meringue on this lemon tart is “c’est magnifique,”  and the sweetness is balanced by the tartness of the lemon tart. Très bien.

The other  treats we had at Le Loir Dans la Théière did not disappoint either. The peach tart and citrus sponge with glaze were good by most standards but stacked against the winsome  tarte au citron, there is no comparison.

Oh! Word of caution. The servings are giganormous so please do order in moderation.

HOW TO GET THERE

Address: 3 Rue des Rosiers, 4ème , 75004 Paris

Reservations: +33 1 42 72 90 61

By tube: Stop at Saint-Paul, Le  Marais.

Pistoletto. Serpentine. Kensington. London.

What do you do when you find yourself caught in the drops of London’s perpetual gloom and you’re in a garden, vulnerable to the elements, to be more specific, Kensington Gardens?

Here’s what we did. We ducked into the next available roofed shelter we saw and we found ourselves at the doorstep of the Serpentine Gallery. The unacquainted, I was excited. I mean, what do you expect when you chance upon a place so named the Serpentine Gallery. In my mind’s eye, I saw multi-media presentation of serpents… you get my drift. Yes, I took it literally and yes, I was wrong.

The Serpentine Gallery is a modern and contemporary art lover’s hideaway and as we chanced upon the place fairly late in the day, we only had time for one exhibit – Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Mirror of Judgement.

I’m no connoisseur in the appreciation of modern and contemporary art but I loved Pistoletto’s use of raw materials [i.e. corrugated cardboards] to create an accessible maze of individual carved out spaces that is at once whole and separate entities reflective of the distinct point of views he tries to convey in his work.

The experience is almost one of self-discovery as you navigate the maze and approach each new space with hopefully, an open mind. Each space pays homage to a different religion – Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity, beckoning the viewer to explore the depths of their reflection beyond their religious views. At least that’s what I got out of it.

Watch The Telegraph’s interview with the artist for more insights.

The feature that still haunts my memory is the one in the entrance/ exit – a well-shaft with a mirror placed at the bottom of the installation reflecting the circular skylight from the structure of the Serpentine Gallery. The sense of depth and wonderment hits you all at once and when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the reflection against the wide sky, the sense of insignificance and yet, a strange empowerment hits you. I walked away from that first instillation somewhat bewildered, in awe and curious.

Since my return from London, I’ve had the time to work on some background research and learn more about the exhibition I chanced upon as well as the man behind the work. Pistoletto has been referred to as the poet of the mirror, sage of the arte povera movement, both elements markedly distinct at the Mirror of Judgement exhibit. I am humbled at having had the honour of being exposed to his work and I do hope more Singaporeans get to be exposed to such exhibitions – on this dot of ours or when they’re out there exploring the wide world and all it has to offer.

Just for fun, while Googling information on the Serpentine Gallery, I chanced upon this Youtube video titled – Peggy Sue: Lover Gone [live @ Serpentine Sessions, Hyde Park]. Had to throw this in for the sentimental value of the nickname Peggy Sue which the Director at my ex-agency bestowed on me.

Break the Routine

Instead of the everyday – ‘How are you?’ and the routine reply of ‘Good,’ I’d better appreciate a different way of making your presence felt. Break the routine before everything else falls into pieces.

Shot: Postcard, Serpentine Gallery Bookshop, Kensington Garden, London, United Kingdom

So Paul’s opening in SG, guess my Parisian holiday just got extended

When I first returned from Paris, an influencer I work with told me that the famed French boulangerie Paul Bakery will open in Singapore by Christmas. With a cocked brow, I gave my best ‘do you think I’m an idiot’ look figuring she was taking me for a ride so imagine my surprise when this was confirmed by multiple other sources and eventually, having recovered from jetlagged, I googled in search for a trustworthy source and found one, I did, via The Straits Times.

According to the article, Paul Bakery will “occupy the shop space which was previously Coffee Club’s on the third floor of the mall next to Books Kinokuniya”

So why the fuss? Let me tell you.

If you’ve ever been in transit at the Dubaiairport, you’ll know Paul. I speak of Paul like we know each other intimately. In truth, Paul did see me through tough times – those long dark hours of transit between Singapore and Egypt in 2010 and the recent transit between Singapore and London, Paul’s been there for me, providing me the right amount of nourishment and sugar rush to take me through those dark hours. In Paris, before I began my marathon of an exploration at Musee de Lourve, Paul was there to help kick start my day. So you see, Paul and I, we go some way  back. [p.s. check out the line at the counter in Dubai]

Enough of the dramatics, I chuckle at whatever possessed me but here’s a gist of the origins leading to the brand that is Paul Bakery. Established in 1889 through humble origins on Rue de la Mackellerie Croix, Charlemagene Mayot started a small bakery with his wife which was eventually succeeded and named Paul when generations later the family took over a bakery belonging to the family Paul and retained the name. Interested in the history of Paul? Click through.

So what are the items that have pulled me through the darkest hours? Here’s the rundown.

Their cuppa is a life-saver, tested and proven – nothing of the weak, acidic sort of brew that many of us may have encountered at other establishments. Not the best, but definitely palatable.

I’ve heard their chocolat chaud, that’s hot chocolate for you, is a miracle in a mug but I’ve never had the good fortune of placing that molten liquid on my lips, not less my tongue. Perhaps this Christmas I’d warm up to a mug of that on this red dot of ours.

You can’t leave Paul without a pastry nor a bread – be it a loaf or in the form of a sandwich, you just can’t. If the counter does not leave you drooling, you must be a fool. To kick start our day long exploration at Musee de Lourve, the lot of us went crazy at the Paul counter and emerged triumphant with the following pastries: Pizza Royale, Quiche Lorraine, Le Grille aux Pommes and the Le Pain au Chocolat. 

Paul‘s La Quiche Lorraine is not the best I’ve tasted but hey given the other pseudo-quiches I’ve had, I’m not complaining. I definitely did wish for it to be served a spot warmer than lukewarm from having sat at the counter though.

The Pizza Royale did hit the spot with me, all that savoury goodness from fresh tomatoes, ham, enmental, enhanced with olive oil, one sound – Mmmmmmmmmm… My toes were definitely curling from the first bite. Sometimes it’s the simple pleasures that take you on a gastronomic journey.

The Le Grille aux Pommes is another stunning winner. Coated with apricot glaze, this pastry was the perfect combination of crisp coat and tender, warm, fresh apples at the centre. Perfection.

The chocolate pastry rounded off our affair with Paul for the day. Crisp exterior, molten centre, sweet chocolate with a hint of bitter.. no better way to start our day at the Musee de Lourve I’d say.

So till Christmas, I’ll be dreaming of you Paul.

Scenes from our Apartment in Paris

So its been what three long weeks since the return but I’m still playing catch-up. Remember the post on apartment hunting in Paris? Well here’s the follow-up – scenes from our stay. A very enjoyable stay I must add. Note tho – The French do not cater to the tall. And I’m no giantess, I stand at a mere 170m at best.

Through the doorway, the kitchen greets you. Simple, clean and functional. What more can one ask for? Well, the fact that I’m no genius in the kitchen compounds the lack of attention to details.

Leaving the kitchen, our quaint and cosy little dining area doubled up as a ‘dumping’ ground of sorts for our purchased loot, brochures, maps and pocket change, only serving its true purpose on the last day of our stay when we decided to have a dine-in night. That’s a story in itself for another day.

On the immediate left is sleeping quarter #1 – a sleeping bed catered for two [bottom left of picture]. Stacked atop, on the loft accessible via a short flight of stairs at the foot of the sofa bed is the ‘master bedroom’ that also sleeps two. I loved the layout of the studio and from night #1, I could see myself living in this particular apartment should I relocate to Paris.

At the foot of the bed, a deck overlooking the kitchen sits. A perfect area for a lounge chair, book in hand, hot chocolate on ‘stool doubled as table’ moments. As you can tell, I see the space as living quarters of my own already.

As mentioned in my original post, renting apartments is the way to go if you’re fretting over accommodation costs in Europe. You get value for your money living quarters, conditions and amenities miles better than most hotels, bed & breakfast and hostels you may find AND above all, it’s a home away from home, your chance to live like a local.

That’s me the giantess signing off for now. Details on our apartment on Rue Chapon can be found here. If you’re sweating buckets over accommodation across Europe, Halldis is a trusted partner and you can rest easy booking through them. I took that risk and found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, so take that plunge, I’m positive there is no room for regrets.

Bonjour from the land of baguettes and macarons

So I’ve always gotten my macaron fix from TWG in SG. Now that I’ve hopped off the Eurostar from London, I can’t wait to hit Ladurée for that sugar rush, observe Parisan chic, lose myself at the Lourve, have a picnic at the Tuileries Garden and just knock back whites all week long. Till the return, au revoir!

SIN – DXB – LHR

As you’re reading this, I should be plain knocked out on the plane bound for Heathrow via Dubai or doing some stretches/ trying to pop my ears/ annoying the shit out of my travel companion on this European leg/ just reading a plain ol’ book.

From London to Bakewell, Manchester, back to London, I can hardly wait to sample at Maze, one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, capture memories at Trafalgar Square, visit the Westminster Cathedral and Palace, thrift at Camden Market and perhaps catch a play or two in our almost week long time there before hopping on the choo-choo to Paris.

So now you know why I can hardly keep a straight face. See you in 2.