Monday, November 30, 2015

TRAVEL | paris

I'm no stranger in Paris, having been there more than a few times in the past four years. I count myself lucky for having been able to return to such an amazing city again and again, and the thing is, if the opportunity arises I'll still choose to come back on my next Eurotrip. It seems like the oldest cliche in the book but Paris IS always a good idea. There's always something new to discover, whether it be another "most charming boulangerie I've ever seen" or another beautifully curated concept shop selling all the right things.

Every time I visit Paris I'm in awe at how gorgeous the city can be in the sunlight. It's funny because I'm surprised that I forget. I never believe that a city can look that good, that my mental image of the place must've been filtered through years of romanticizing. 

But no, it actually looks that good.

I remember that first afternoon, stepping off of the bus from Brussels. It was drizzling in Paris and I had to meet my mum (who flew in from Hong Kong, and hadn't been to Paris since she my age) at Gare Du Nord. At that point the skies were grey and it was still raining. When we finally met up we were both exhausted from lack of sleep so we took a cab over to one of my favorite cafes. We ordered coffee and a sandwich to split, and as we tucked into our first decent meal in 24 hours the clouds cleared (no bullsh*t!!!!) and sunlight streamed through the trees. At that moment we both had to take a moment to appreciate how wonderful everything was.

I would also like to take this time to say that Airbnb is a godsend! I booked my first apartment in Paris and had the most wonderful stay. We were situated in my usual Montmartre and was close to every thing we'd ever need: grocery stores, patisserie, boulangerie, cafes, sacre coeur etc. 

My favorite part of the apartment was the *surprise* dining room and kitchen *surprise*. It was so comforting to eat something home cooked (& by my mum) after a month of traveling. To book this apartment, check out the link { here } and if you do please say hi to Marcello for me :)

What set this trip apart from the rest is addition of family. My mum and my sister joined me in Paris and we enjoyed 9 adventure-filled days in the city. I took them on a tour of my favorite neighborhoods and showed them many of my favorite shops. It's always been my mum's dream to return to Paris one day and I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to ask her to join us. My mum, sister, and I have lived apart for a long timeat one point Kelly was based in the Bay area, mum in Hong Kong, and finally me in Irvine. Money was tight sometimes, so we haven't had a family vacation since 2006. 2015 was really a year of good fortune and I'm grateful we were all able to be in Paris together.

It was a very unusual but memorable reunion. As I mentioned previously, I was coming from Belgium. I arrived in Paris the same morning my mum flew in from Hong Kong. We spent one afternoon together just us and waited for Kelly to fly in from Los Angeles (she arrived the next day).

Reuniting with family is always a good feeling; at that point we hadn't seen Kelly in over 9 months. It was so fun to open the door of our Paris apartment and see her standing outside with her suitcase. Our first meal together was a medley of salads and cheese, which we washed down with a glass of cheap red wine from local grocery store. This one goes into the books for sure.

Oh man, we ate so much in Paris. Looking back, it was just a blur of coffeeshops, pastries, and lots and lots of bread. It's difficult to pinpoint where we had the best meal but I think the pancakes at { Holybelly } deserves a mention. I'm not normally a big fan of pancakes (or cakes in generalit's that fluffy texture..don't like it) but Holybelly's pancakes is making me reconsider my life choices. 

And I didn't even order the pancakes!!! Kelly didI had eggs with mushroom, which was still delicious by the way! But I knew the moment I took a bite of Kelly's pancakes that I had made a terrible terrible mistake. Just look at it! Is that not the most gorgeous plate of breakfast you've ever seen? 

Although I've never actually lived in the city, Paris is beginning to feel like home. I love how the streets began to feel familiar, and I love that I had cafes I could visit over and over again. I know I will be returning soon.. I can feel it in my bones.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

TRAVEL | ghent

For this trip I've learned to take it easy and let spontaneity take over from time to time. Ghent in Belgium wasn't a destination I had planned for this trip, but after a chat about travel plans over some beers with my roomies from Antwerp, a few of us ended up organising a excursion to the little Medieval city.
While my friends were on the free walking tour of the city I went off on my own to explore the city. I Came across a waffle stand and thought hey, when in Rome so I ordered a massive Belgium waffle with chocolates and fresh strawberries. It was delicious, however I felt like the portion size was clearly catering to the American tourists. I was only able to eat about 1/3 of it before the sweetness overwhelmed me. Reminder for the future: always share!!! 

After their tour, Natalie, Laura, Casey and I went out in search for the world renowned Belgium fries with fresh house-made mayonnaise. Personally I've never been the biggest fan of potatoes so I never really understood what the fuss with Belgium fries was all about. But sitting by the canals with new friends while munching on those artery-clogging morsels was a glorious way end to our day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

TRAVEL | antwerpen

I had so much fun visiting Antwerp. Coming straight from Amsterdam, I had expected to be underwhelmed by the little city. I didn't have the best first impression of the city. Turns out my { hostel } was a bit further away from the center than I would have liked, but I booked it because it had good reviews online. In the end it was one of the best decisions I've made on this trip, and I had the best time. I met so many people at AB, many of whom I still keep in contact with today--I even met up with a few of them in Vienna this past week!

In fact, I enjoyed Antwerp so much I extended my four day stay to six days total. Eventually, I was known as the veteran AB hostel as most people usually only spend two, three days at best in the city. Most of the hostel staff were travellers themselves, but just picked up the job at random while passing through. I realised later on that more than half of them arrived the same afternoon I did! We spent the whole week getting to know each other, trading stories over beers, and welcoming new travellers into our little family.  

One of my hostel friends and I decided to take a day and do some sightseeing together. There was a street a few blocks from our neighborhood that is known for their extensive graffiti. I'm still amazed at what a positive attitude Europeans have towards street art culture. They don't do it because it's trendy and hipster, but they do it for the love of it. And its so refreshing to see the city embrace/respect the artists as well.

I originally had more photos to post from Antwerp's { Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum } but my camera fogged up because of the cold and the rain. :(