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Friday was our last full day in London. The few days we had there just whizzed by too quickly and the evening before, I was lamenting about how sad I was the be leaving Europe this time around. Usually I’m ever the eager beaver to return back to the warmth of Singapore, but I guess the weather had treated me so well that it made me fall that little bit in love with Europe – especially Hamburg. And already I can’t wait to return again to that side of the world next year, hopefully to Italy or Switzerland or another city in Germany.

Friday morning Flo and I made our way back into London but more to the CBD where we met Leena during her lunch hour. It was really sweet of her to sacrifice her precious hour off work just to see us.

We met at To A Tea near Farringdon station, which is this cute little bistro that specialises in teas and they also do healthy lunches – think full salads with lean proteins or veggie options.

I chose a Flowering Tea just because it looked so pretty in the picture. A glass of hot water came and I was like “Whuuuuut?!” before the server dropped a blob of something into it. It took about a minute to slowly unfurl and open up.


Green Tea with Lily and Osmanthus.

Definitely rather girly to look at and perfect for Instagramming. The tea carried a lovely aroma of osmanthus but towards the bottom, it got quite bitter, naturally, as the tea has steeped quite a while by then so it was a little difficult to drink.

It was great catching up with Leena and learning about how the year ahead is going to be quite an exciting one for her, and especially Brian who’s taken over his parents’ restaurant down in Southampton. Lots of things are starting to come together but at the same time, there’re lots of issues to iron out. I hope that all goes well for them!

After tea, Flo and I walked along the River Thames to get to Borough Market.

I love love love Borough Market! Yes yes, it’s full of tourists and food prices aren’t exceptionally cheap but the buzz in the air as you walk through the market is amazing. The delicious smells of food sizzling on the grill, the wide array of pastries, the sweet scent of fresh bread. It’s a feast for the senses!

First thing Flo and I had was an oyster each from this man here.

£2.50 per oyster, with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of tabasco, downed in a mere 2.5 seconds. Faster than that in fact!

There were two girls next to us who appeared never to have seen or eaten oysters before and were both keen yet hesitant to try them. After Flo and I had swallowed our delightfully fresh oysters that tasted of the sea, they asked if they were good. I said that they were and Mr. Oyster Man complained that I wasn’t loud enough for him to hear. So I sportingly exclaimed that they were AWESOME!

Paella…

Which we skipped. 

Now Flo and I enjoy good food but we’re not the types to go around and stuff our faces with every appetising thing in sight. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that we both realise that sometimes overeating not only makes you feel sick, it also taints your memory of the food and the place. Instead, we tend to zero in on something we think we’d like and savour it. If we are still hungry after, we might get a small snack or dessert. And the next time we return, we can always try something else. In this case, it might be a while but still…

I more or less zeroed in on Big V.

They specialise in vegan burgers and I opted for the Salad Box that came with two salads and a choice of burger patty. I chose the Spicy Chickpea Sweet Potato Patty. Cost me £7. And it was quite a hefty box which left me very full after.

I loved the Spinach and Broccoli Salad but the Shredded Beetroot Carrot Salad that’s hidden below was a bit too dry and rabbit-food like. Then again, I tend to prefer my veggies on the softer side so yeah… I’m like an old woman in that respect.

I had the salads drizzled with Ume Dressing and they also scooped a generous amount of Beetroot Hummus and Tahini dressing on top as well. Those last two were really yummy. I added Sriracha for the extra kick on my burger. I enjoyed the patty so much I actually returned home and made some for myself! In fact, I made two kinds of veggie burgers so stay tuned for those recipes in a few blog posts’ time!

Flo on the other hand, stayed away from the greens since I had enough for the both of us, and went for the good ol’ British Classic – Fish&Chips from Fish!.

It was ironic because Flo was always drawing flak about how England’s doesn’t have much good food to speak of, and that Fish & Chips are often drowned in oil so why would anyone want to eat them?! I only found out the day that we were at Borough Market that he’d never actually had proper fish and chips before! Tsk! Anyway, he finally decided to give it a go to see if there was some redemption in the English food scene to be found.

And it looks like Fish!, with their £9.95 Cod Fish and Chips managed to impress him after all!

The batter of the piping hot fresh, flakey fish was thin and crisp, while the chips were fat and so very lightly salted. Great with the ketchup although salt and vinegar would have been the more traditional way to go.

Flo said that he was very pleasantly surprised that the fish was fried well and not at all oily. Same with the chips. I’m glad he enjoyed this typical English pub grub especially since this is something the English have definitely got a deft hand in cooking this speciality of theirs. It’s not easy to find Fish & Chips of that same standard in Singapore so having it in London was definitely the right choice.

Happy bellies! We did take a lot of pictures of the food and the food with ourselves. Funny because I think it was in my last post that I was laughing at people taking wefies with the swans at Hyde Park. I guess we all have our little fetishes. Flo’s, and mine, just happens to be food.

So after we filled our bellies, we walked a little more around Borough Market, soaking in the gorgeous sights of beautifully made pastries and desserts.

Giant cookies, German cakes, Dessert slices…

Tarts, Sliced cakes, Chocolate fondants…

Fudge! I’m not really a fudge fan but they’re really popular in the UK.

We skipped the cheeses and breads because we knew that we’d be tempted to buy some but there wouldn’t have been much point since we were leaving the next day – me back to Singapore, and Flo to Zurich for a week at head office.

I wanted to take him over to Bermondsey Street to this place called Fuckoffee. It’s this super quirky, hipster, coffee cafe place where the youngsters go to. It’s like an ‘alternative’ cafe that’s a little rough round the edges.

We were a mere few hundred metres off when it began to pour, so Flo and I quickly found shelter at Bermondsey Street Cafe instead which looked a world away from Fuckoffee. It took quite a big space and looked upmarket-industrial. There was a group of hot mamas with their babies there and two Japanese girls who looked to be having a late brunch of delectable looking fluffy pancakes.

Flo had his Cappuccino. I had my Piccolo.

We didn’t make it to Fuckoffee in the end and I think it was kind of a good thing because the more I think about it, the more the place seems a little dank and grungy. That’s just my opinion. 

When the rain finally cleared, the temperature dropped quite a bit and the winds turned a touch icy. Just a touch.

Flo and I continued on towards the Thames…

Where we then wefied with Tower Bridge

And The Shard

Awesome huh? We took pictures with some of the most iconic, world famous buildings in the world!!!

Then we crossed Tower Bridge, which is one of the prettiest bridges ever. I used to think it was the London Bridge just because. But one day, I found out which one was the real London Bridge and felt rather disappointed that it didn’t look as impressive as it sounded. Also, I guess because there was the song about London bridge falling down, I simply assumed it had to be an amazeballs looking bridge.

Flo and I had quite a journey home because we went to Tower Hill station where we had to make a few switches before we got onto the Met line home. Thought we’d be late for family dinner but nope! We had about a good half hour before most of the family started to pile in.

Grandma cooked the perfect amount for 16 of us – there was a bit more food kept aside in the kitchen for the latecomers.

Sambal Squid with Lady’s Fingers, Roast Pork Belly, Curry Prawns, Stir-fried Asparagus with Runner Beans and Pork Ribs. She later took out some of that Spinach Curry from the night before that I love.

T’was a great final dinner in London and it was wonderful being able to catch up with Rachael especially and find out how her wedding plans are coming along. First cousin on Mum’s side to get married!! 

And seeing Suk Gong, as well as Uncle Peter and Aunty Betty. It’s been a while and sometimes, it’s only after not seeing them for a while that I realise just how much they, and my parents too, are getting on. I’m happy though, that they are all blessed with good health and are looking lively and happy.

Saturday morning, I finished packing everything. By packing I actually mean stuffing everything into my check-in bag. I was a little worried that it might burst open while transiting from London to Singapore. Thank God it didn’t.

Mum, Dad, Grandpa and Grandma left quite early to Southampton to catch their two-week cruise around the Baltic. Flo and I managed to say goodbye to them before catching a bit more zees. At 11am, just an hour before their ship was due to depart, Uncle David got a call to say that they’d left their tickets at home! So there was a bit of a panic where Uncle David had to drive fast and furiously to get the tickets to them, while Kor had to dash Sophie to her tuition class in Harrow.

So lunch with Kor at this Japanese place we enjoy was scrapped and Flo and I made a simple lunch at home before Kor dropped us off at the airport.

Flo’s flight to Zurich was at 4.55pm so I managed to send him all the way to his gate before I somehow managed to burn the other 3 hours until my flight was due to leave.

And so, our two week Eurotrip came to a close. Eurotrip isn’t really the right term because we were really only in two places. Hamdon trip? Lonburg? It was a great one though, one that far exceeded my expectations especially spending it with Flo. In fact, I daresay it was my favourite holiday ever. So far. Especially because it was with Flo.

 

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We managed another road trip with my parents on Thursday but this time, we weren’t as ambitious as before. It was a straightforward 40-ish minute drive to Cliveden, an estate now owned by the National Trust.

Cliveden actually means “valley among cliffs” and has been home to dukes, countesses and a Prince of Wales! Amongst others, of course. Its grounds are huge and its gardens are gorgeous. The day we went was another amazingly beautiful day, perfect for all the families who came with their little ones for a picnic and to run around.

The vastness of Cliveden made me wonder just how its past inhabitants used to get around. By horse? Carriage? Walking? And what if they needed to find each other? 

There was also an area where The Dollhouse was situated. They had these little tree stumps together with a big stump that doubled as chairs and a table. Dad got quite excited being able to sit on one of the stumps.

We continued further in to a large fountain also known as The Fountain of Love where the shell supports three females who are being seen to by Cupid. Yes, I actually try to do some kind of research on these things especially for those who are interested.

I’m sure there were a lot more to Cliveden that we missed out on simply because it was so big and we didn’t have enough time to explore every nook and cranny.

From this shell fountain, we walked up the long driveway leading to the mansion that now operates as a 5-star hotel.

We didn’t enter the hotel but we did walk round its terrace which gave us a bird’s eye view of the parterre. At 4 acres, this is possibly one of Europe’s largest formal gardens.

How cool is that?!

After reaching the parterre, we decided to try and loop back to the car as tummies were beginning to growl. We kind of overshot one of the turns but in doing so, we managed to get a nice shot of Flo and I amongst the tall trees with not a person in sight (behind us). We were all wondering actually, why the crowds had thinned out.

Mum, I think, was getting tired, so was a little annoyed that we had to walk the extra way to get onto the right path back to the car where lunch was waiting for us.

Olive Bread with Serrano Ham. 

Hopping back into the car, we continued on in search for what is allegedly the oldest freehouse in England. Mum and Dad were brought there by a good friend of theirs before and it wasn’t far off from Cliveden. Only… it’s located in a rather remote area so finding its exact location required some trial and error, before resorting to some old-fashioned help, before getting confirmation from Googlemaps which decided to come through for us only after we’d already asked for directions.

Rickety, uneven floors and a low ceiling greeted us at their entrance.

And the interior did feel quite dated with all the random paraphernalia seemingly gathered over the years, decades, centuries?

The place did look old, but whether or not its as old as the over 900 years that they claim to be, I’m not so sure.

Age aside, it still looked sturdy as a rock and while the boys had their pints in hand to cool them down in the afternoon sun, Mum and I settled for coffee.

We decided to have our drinks out in the warm sunshine even though the inside looked very cosy and intimate.

We managed to make it home much earlier this time around which was nice. Our day felt quite relaxed and it was great being able to spend more time out in the fresh air. Being home early also meant that dinner was served hot and fresh out of their pots and pans.

Grandma made my favourite Spinach Curry!! And Mum’s favourite Braised Chicken with Lily Bulbs and Shitake Mushrooms.

I know, I keep saying that Grandma made my favourite this and favourite that. That’s because they’re all my favourite and just as the flavour of Mum’s cooking is unique to herself, so is Grandma’s. Replicating the taste of her cooking would be a near impossible feat!

Also, on many previous trips, owing to my ED, I refrained from eating Grandma’s food what with the oil and salt and blah blah blah. I would buy my own food and cook them to my liking. So I think that being back this time around and allowing myself to enjoy grandma’s food also made her so much the happier. And there were times after dinner where I’d feel as though I’d overindulged but at the end of the day, it was a real treat being able to eat her familiar cooking so f*ck ED because it was worth it.

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Our first morning in London – Northwood to be exact, the town where my family resides when we’re there. It was a soggy day, quite typical of the UK, and it was a bit of a bummer because I felt like Hamburg had totally impressed me with its weather and while I was hoping that London would do the same, it felt like a lame effort on her part.

I guess London being London, it just had to keep to its ‘usual’ default, predictable self. And that, I suppose, can be quite endearing.

After a nice breakfast at home, Flo and I went for a walk around the area. I just showed him our small little high street, and Waitrose – because we love supermarkets!! And just around the corner, was my old school where I did my A level’s.

Northwood College. 

The sign’s been changed and looks rather stiff and boring now. I mean, it didn’t look that much fancier before but it used to state the headmistress’s name as well and somehow it looked prettier.

Flo and I had a rough idea how we were going to plan our days in London so since we didn’t have much time there, we decided to take the family out for lunch first thing. Grandma and Grandpa chose to go for dim sum and I have to admit, I’ve had dim sum at their ‘usual’ before and wasn’t too impressed. We went there anyway, and whaddya know? Looks like they’ve upped their game. The dim sums were more refined and the only dish that disappointed us badly was the pork and century egg congee. That was just mehhh…

I kind of over-ordered not realising that grandma was adding on quite a few noodle dishes but all of us managed to polish everything off in the end. I helped quite a bit too although I did feel quite bad after. And even then, I hankered after a bit of dessert but decided to wait till later…

Because the fam-bam decided we would go visit Windsor Castle while grandma and grandpa went shopping at the Chinese Supermarket.

We used to visit Windsor every year when my brother and I were little. And every year we’d take a photo on their wooden benches by the castle. We” as in my family, and/or just my brother and I, and/or my parents and my brother, and/or my parents and me. You get the idea.

This time, we managed to get one with all of us including Flo. This lovely lady, she sounded Welsh, who was with her young family, gamely offered to help us take a photo. And she did a great job of it too!

Then after a bit of wandering along the Windsor high street, Flo and I decided to have some ice-cream. Not just any ice-cream. A softee! 

Again, this is something from my childhood that I haven’t had in years!

And with a Flake no less!

I remember Kor and I running up to the Mr. Softee van to buy a cone each whenever we were there in summer.

This time though, there wasn’t a van. Just a quaint little shop by Windsor Castle. A quaint little shop that sold these softees for £2.50 each!! Well, 50p extra for the Flake.

That pretty much summed up our Monday. We went home in time for grandma’s dinner. Mind you, we had dinner at home every day while we were in London because grandma kept enticing me by cooking all the food that she knows are my favourites. Also, she was very flattered that Flo enjoyed her cooking and that spurred her on to make sure she cooked at her highest level each evening. That’s what Chinese families are like – we show our love through food. The more we feed you, the more we love you. 

Tuesday morning, we left home at 10am, and went all old-school with the map to go to Stratford-upon Avon.

It took us a while because we decided to go through Oxford. Bad idea. Oxford had really heavy traffic getting back onto the motorway and just before we reached Stratford, Flo and I were dying for a pee.

We stopped by this super cute little town just before Marlborough, and found a pub that generously allowed us to use their restrooms. I loved how they had their walls embellished with these words/phrases of affirmation.

Yes. “Shine bright like a diamond”. We all know that song, but how often do we remember to shine like a diamond?

Also, this town seemed very into crafts and even the little barricades(?) by the roadside were adorned with knitted ‘hats’.

From the top…

Had your 5 a day?

When we finally reached Stratford, it was right about lunch time. So we quickly found a cafe where we could sit al fresco and order some hot drinks to go along with our homemade sandwiches.

Or breadrolls.

I had the poppyseed one.

With cream cheese and stuffed with salad greens and smoked salmon. Yummers!

Mum and Dad decided they wanted to continue with their sit-down so Flo and I took a walk around the street where Shakespeare used to trod on.

Right at the head of the street they have a statue of a Jester.

And to the side sits Shakespeare’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode.

A picture of me taking a picture of Mum and Dad.

And of course, a wefie!

We were contemplating going to the lake round the corner and were actually walking towards it when Mum informed us that if we wanted to visit Bath or Avebury, that it might be smarter to leave sooner rather than later. So we turned back towards the carpark where we set off towards Avebury since we ascertained that it’d be nicer to walk around the area than to visit a single site. Also, Flo had seen Roman baths in Italy before so we might as well go somewhere new.

And off we went.

Again, the journey took quite a while from Stratford and by the time we got there, it was already about 4pm.

We didn’t manage to spend too much time walking around the huge stones. The area actually consists of three stone circles, including the largest stone circle in Europe. They’re much like the ones set in Stonehenge only the nice thing about here is that you can still go up to the rocks and touch them.

Till today, when summer solstice arrives, so does a crowd of campers who might participate in meditation activities together or to simply enjoy the soundscape concert.

Perhaps some might be there for the sheep. Mum was a little reluctant to trod on the grass because of sheep poop pretty much everywhere. It’s not too bad as long as you watch where you’re stepping, or if you’re like Flo, you might not care at all and go chasing after the sheep.

My boyfriend, the shepherd. 

We were off not long after we arrived. I think we were a bit too ambitious this time taking a road trip to two places that were not very close to each other. Stratford was a bit of a drive away and we would have probably done better spending the day there rather than try to stop over at Avebury. It felt as though we’d spent more time sitting in the car than enjoying the fresh cool air of England and as we’re all not getting younger, you can imagine a lot of backache and leg cramp action going on the longer we sat in the car.

Oh. I also tried this Vanilla Coke Zero. It ended up being the only one I had because I couldn’t find it any place else.

I thought I’d struck gold when I picked up another bottle at our Northwood Newsagents’, only for Flo to point out that it was Vanilla Coke, no Zero. Boo! This was an absolute gem of a drink. It taste incredibly creamy and luscious. ’tis a pity it’s not available as widely as it should be!

Also, at the very place I found my Vanilla Coke Zero, I picked up a packet of this popcorn.

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I wasn’t expecting much from it but it was so good! It really tasted like peanut butter even though they really just used peanut flour and ground almonds to flavour the popcorn. And a bit of sugar.

It blew my mind! On the way back I bought a packet of their Fiery Worcester Sauce & Sun-dried Tomato flavour but that was a bit of a let down. I’ll stick to the Peanut & Almond one.

Grandma cooked my favourites for dinner! I know it doesn’t look like much but Chinese home-cooking is a lot healthier and tastier than the salty, greasy stuff often found at Chinese takeaways.

Braised Chicken with Shitake Mushrooms and Chestnuts. And Glass Noodles stir-fried with Sweet Cabbage and Dried Shrimp. Aaaaand my favourite, comforting bowl of Lotus Root Soup on the side, unpictured, brewed with lots of patience, and love!

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I. Am. Happy.

It must have been the weather and the sun, but I felt so happy being in Hamburg. I think it’s one thing to go about doing touristy things in a city/country, and it’s another be immersed into another culture by being with locals. I love discovering new places as a tourist, but being part of German life even for a week, made me feel more connected to the country.

On the Friday that I was there, Flo had some errands to run. So he dropped me off at Cafe May where I was hankering after yoghurt for breakfast. Alas, they only had yoghurt available for their buffet breakfast so I settled for a Sesambrötchen with Nutella and Sour Cherry Compote for €3.60. It came with coffee.

I know it’s a little silly but this seemingly plain breakfast tasted so good. I swear the air in Europe makes food taste better. Or perhaps it’s the quality of flour that makes their bread taste so much richer, more aromatic, more hearty. And yes, we get Nutella here but the Sour Cherries compote was something different. It was delightful! Sweet, but not too sweet. Tart, but not too tart.

Just before I took the picture above, the place was buzzing with people grabbing a quick breakfast before dashing off to work or school. There was a homeliness about the cafe and their large, rustic cakes looked just like the ones grandma would make, filling the air with the sweet scent of fresh bakes. Uhm.. by grandma I mean the kind of grandma who spends her days making magic in the kitchen, patiently coating layers of sponge with light lashings of cream. My grandma bakes too but more Asian cakes – Pandan chiffon cakes and butter cakes. Less of the cream ones.

After a leisurely breakfast, I crossed over to the park that was abound with parents watching their children having the time of their lives. It was a really big park by Singapore standards and it was so peaceful as I made my way further in. I tried not to wander too far or make too many turns lest I got lost. I’m quite prone to getting lost and without wifi or data, that wouldn’t have been ideal.

Clear blue skies and green green trees.

I found a bench where I sat myself on to bask under the sunshine. Then I got a little restless and decided to walk slowly back to the station. Flo was still settling some stuff so I went over to Penny, this convenience store across the road where I had a good poke around.

Call me a noob but I found these large blocks of Ritter Sport!! They only have the smaller squares here so these looked really novel to me! I restrained myself and didn’t buy any. Just got myself a Coke Zero and a packet of fruit and nut mix in case I got peckish.

I managed to find a small green area where I chilled for a bit before receiving a text from Flo to say he was done and would meet me at the station.

Fun Fact: In Germany, glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium cans are often placed beside the bin for the homeless to pick up. They then bring it for recycling where they can get some money back. 

I wasn’t sure where to put my finished tin of coke so I put it inside the bin because I was afraid it might get blown away. Not more than 10min later was it fished out by an elderly woman. So I guess I was supposed to leave it beside the bin but no matter, because it was found anyway. 🙂

Our plan for the afternoon was to visit Flo’s aunty Sangeeta and her family. But first. LUNCH!

This time, we tried the Matjesbrötchen and the Bratheringbrötchen.

Apparently, Matjes herring is skinned and filleted before being cured in a marinade. Usually young herrings are used to make matjes herring. Bismarck is lightly salted and pickled while Brathering, it is fried, marinated herring.

The matjes herring reminded me a lot of smoked salmon with saltiness being its most dominant flavour, while the brathering was more plain. My preference is still 100% for the bismarck herring!

We didn’t have too much time to dwell on the brötchens as we were running a little late getting to Sangeeta’s. When we finally reached, it was just about tea time so after introductions were made, we made for their back patio where Sangeeta laid out her stunning Rhabarberkuchen (Rhubarb Cake).

As well as these gorgeous looking Erdbeertörtchen (Strawberry Cakelets).

I’ve never tried a rhubarb cake in my life so this was a first. The nutty ground almonds in the cake base held up a generous layer of delicately tangy rhubarb, while the soft meringue on top carried that bit of sweetness needed to balance the flavours off perfectly.

Flo’s 14-years-old and growing cousin, Nilai, managed to down slice after slice of Rhubarb Cake as well as a fair number of Strawberry Cakelets. And he still had room later for dinner. I was in awe!

Flo’s paternal grandma, Frau Mathur, was also present. Bless her! I thought she was amazing and really sweet. As was Flo’s cousin sister Shalin whose attempt to do some social work in Bangalore when her gap year starts in September fell through right at the last minute. I have my fingers and toes crossed that she will get to go with another organisation.

Torsen, Sangeeta’s husband, joined us a little while later in time to get some cake before Nilai polished them off. Then Flo flew his drone around a little while and managed to snap a few pictures of all of us.

I was nice being able to relax on their porch and chit-chat with Flo’s family before dinner. Frau Mathur spent a few years in London working, and that was where she met her husband, Flo’s paternal grandpa, Herr Mathur. Sangeeta and Torsen also lived in the States a few years with their kids so communication with them was a breeze.

Flo’s late paternal grandfather was Indian which also explains the little traces of exoticism in his and his cousins, as well as Sangeeta’s features. They all look so damn gorgeous!!

Torsen fired up the barbecue for dinner and the meats! I think I’ve raved so many times to anyone willing to hear that the Germans are awesome at their barbecues. They use good cuts of meat and the sausages are not filled with gristle unlike the ones we get in the UK. They’re proper meat and proper quality.

Sangeeta’s salads were also crazy delicious. I couldn’t help but have a few servings of her salad before daring to ask her what she put into it. Olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, sprinkles. Sprinkles of mixed dried herbs. And so, before we left, she gifted me a box of sprinkles for when I make salads at home. I was so touched!

And the plate above ended up having more food piled onto it. I didn’t just eat the one sausage!

Saturday morning was supposed to be our last full day in Hamburg. One of Jens’ friends bunked over the night before because he was testing out a car that his company had lent to him. Mercedes. He woke up so bright and so early that Flo and I were wondering whether he’d already left to drive back to Munich. We found out not long after that he’d actually gone out to pick up some breakfast.

A ‘typical’ Bavarian breakfast.

Of Pretzels and Weisswursts.

In Germany, you can buy unbaked pretzels frozen and then bake them up at home. Which is what we did. You can’t get any fresher than that! The pretzels were just slightly crisp on the outside and so fluffy on the inside. They were nowhere as dense and bulky as the ones we get in Singapore.

Weisswursts are usually boiled to warm them up, after which you remove their casing and eat the meat with sweet mustard. What I love about these is that the sausage meat is really lean yet so flavourful.

After breakfast, Jens’ friend left for his drive home while we set off to Alster Lake.

It’s not so apparent in my photos but it was bustling with activity. There were people kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, rowing, and even water cycling which was new to me.

Further down where the lake opens up were lots of people windsurfing. I love how the Germans make use of beautiful days to do outdoor activities be it on the water, or simply taking a walk or cycling. It shows how much they appreciate good weather and fresh air.

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Finally, a picture with our wonderful hosts, Jens and Leslie.

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Who managed to put up with the two of us a whole week! 🙂

On our way home, we stopped by their local supermarket to pick up more white asparagus at my request since I don’t think I’ll have any more for quite a while.

White asparagus with ham for starters.

Then we shared the meats that Flo and I failed to bring over to Chris’ place on Thursday. They were still awesome-possum anyway.

We also grilled up some feta cheese sprinkled with dried herbs, salt and pepper, topped with red onions, chopped tomatoes and paprika, and wrapped in foil. Another flavour bomb! I was going to share a picture of it but really, it’s not much of a looker. Trust me though, warm, gooey, melty, salty feta is pure bliss. I actually bought a pack of feta just now! Will wait for Flo to come back and have a BBQ with Amanda and Alex since we plan to swing by Huber’s for some meats. Mmm… I’m already salivating just thinking of it.

Our evening ended on a high because Flo’s team, Dortmund, beat Frankfurt 2-1 to win the German cup. I was very happy because my boyfriend was ecstatic – Happy boyfriend happy life! Only we couldn’t properly celebrate because Leslie’s a die-hard Frankfurt fan. Oops!

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Flo and I mainly commuted around Hamburg by bus or on trains during our stay there. So when we had to make our way to the area where his Mum, Ute, lives, we had to catch one of those fast trains that went out of the main city area.

This picture below reminds me a lot of Paris’ Gare du Nord. It’s a hustle and bustle of people heading to or coming from somewhere.

Due to a slight miscommunication, Ute wasn’t around when we arrived. So Flo and I went to the nearby town bakery to grab a Mettbrötchen. This is probably Flo’s favourite breakfast since he often raves about it and never fails to have one whenever he goes back to Germany.

It was my first time trying raw minced pork with chopped raw onions. I found it slightly on the salty side and while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t find myself desiring to have more. That being said, it was interesting to finally try one of Flo’s favourite foods.

We met Ute not long after and she brought us to her apartment for a quick cup of coffee before we set off to Flo’s grandparents’ home an hour and a half away. It was a nice drive through the countryside, so nice that I ended up nodding off half the journey.

We arrived after his grandparents’ usual lunch time so Herr Rennekamp was rather on the hungry side. He was really cute though, asking repeatedly when lunch would be served. It wasn’t too long before the beautiful aroma of home-cooked food began to waft through the rooms.

Frau Rennekamp had cooked some of the Weißer Spargel (White Asparagus) that Ute had bought over, Spätzle and Hungarian Beef Goulash.

It was a simple meal but so wholesome and sumptuous! It was my virgin experience eating spätzle and I enjoyed it very much, especially with the comforting, tender beef with tangy sauerkraut in the goulash. Flo said the goulash wasn’t the best but I loved it and am serious about making some at home once Flo returns from Zurich. I even bought home some spätzle!

Also, I’d never eaten white asparagus before and while it was simply boiled in salt water, it was incredibly sweet and tender. No seasoning was needed. We had some ham along with it and it’s amazing how there isn’t always a need for fancy cooking for food to taste delicious. Fresh ingredients certainly speak for themselves.

Herr Rennekamp heartily dug into lunch and once we were filled up, he excitedly asked for dessert. He reminded me so much of Grandpa who we all know has quite a sweet-tooth. My grandpa, even at 85, can be quite cheeky too and is known to behave himself a couple of days before the doctor checks his blood sugar, only to return home after the test to indulge in Honey Nut Crunch drowned in tea (he says he doesn’t take sugar with his tea anymore but it looks like this is his alternative) as well as toast slathered in marmalade. 

It took all of two minutes for Herr Rennekamp to dish ice-cream for all of us, to be eaten with berries compote. And not long after, he made sure to have a second round.

We spent quite a bit of time chit-chatting. Back in the day, Herr and Frau Rennekamp used to travel a lot but age has slowed them down. Frau Rennekamp used to visit the US quite often so she was able to speak some English although after years of little practice, she claims to have forgotten quite a lot. Still, I thought that she spoke really well!

We went for a short walk after lunch, like a really really short walk. Like 50m off from their home where we stood around looking at neighbouring houses before we returned. Then Flo’s grandfather showed us around his garden – Flo helped him build the garden 15, 16 years ago when they had just built the house. It’s a gorgeous garden with a little camping ‘hut’ where you can BBQ in, and even sleep in, in winter.

And just as Asian families love to feed their loved ones, Flo’s grandma had prepared cakes in anticipation for tea time. Or coffee for them.

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These were huge (to me) slices of cakes and each person had one for themselves.

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I went for one that was akin to a Blackforest but not typical of the usual one. It had a marble butter cake base studded with sour cherries, was topped with fresh cream and then covered by a thin layer of dark chocolate. I loved the cherries but I just couldn’t stomach any more than half the cake.

Right after tea time, Flo and I had to bid farewell to Herr and Frau Rennekamp. It amazed me how quickly time flew spending the afternoon with them and Ute. I could see how sad they were that we couldn’t stay longer and Frau Rennekamp asked for us to spend more time with them next visit. Alternatively, she might come over to Singapore or meet us somewhere in between.

Ute dropped us at one of the train stations on the way home so Flo and I managed to hop on over to Hauptbahnhof station where he managed to buy some new ear phones from a nearby electronic store, and also for us to get some dinner.

Flo was adamant that I try one of Germany’s favourite street grub, especially after a late night out – the Doner. According to Google, Batman served a mean doner. And it wasn’t too far from where we were either.

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They made fresh wraps on site and I swear, it took 30 seconds to make a doner from start to finish. They were that fast! See video below for evidence:

Unfortunately, they were out of veal which was Flo’s preference, so we had to settle for chicken. And let me tell you, their doners were like the size and weight of a baby!

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Digging in.

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Fresh chunks of chicken, fresh, crisp salad, onions, yoghurt sauce, chilli flakes. 


I wasn’t blown away. I guess I haven’t had enough doner kebabs in my life to know whether this was a good one, bad one, or great one. It did the job of filling me up though although Flo and I agreed that the bread was a bit too thick and chewy for our liking.

After we left Batman, Flo felt a tinge of regret at not having decided to go to a different doner shop to get one with veal. Also, he claims that his usual spot still makes it better. It’s ok. It was fun just having a go and crossing something else off our ‘To-Eat’ list.

So I’ve just shared with you about meeting part of Flo’s family. On Thursday, it was time to meet his friends. After being with Flo a while now, I know how important his friends are to him and it was important to me too that I made a good impression on them.

His friends and him go back years and years, and I know that they’ve stuck by him through thick and thin, just as Flo has done for them. I was also excited in finally seeing in person the people Flo has shared stories with me about, from their school days to travelling together.

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Thursday was a perfect day for a BBQ with the warm sun smiling upon us. We went to Chris’s home – Chris actually just visited and stayed with us a couple months back so it was great seeing him again! He has a huge back garden, the kind that’d be lovely for kids to get up to no good in.

Anyway, the BBQ was set such that every person/couple brought just enough food for themselves, and would cook their own food as well so that everyone would be able to socialise. Flo and I had put our meats into the fridge but somehow, in our frenzy to go over to Chris’ home (which is about a 45-60min drive away), only Jens and Leslie’s food got packed. We did however, have our two red bell peppers make the trip.

Flo’s friends were sweet enough to offer us some of their grub and we ended up having more than enough food that evening. So much so that we could only stomach one bell pepper while the other ended up being kept by Chris I believe because it certainly didn’t make it home with us.

We managed to get a picture of all of us with Flo’s drone.

And another.

After sunset, it started to get a little chilly so we moved into Chris’ living room. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Flo’s friends – Geezy, Felix and Thomas especially, all of whom I was meeting for the first time. They all spoke great English although as a group, they sometimes lapsed into German unconsciously which is natural.

It was a tiring day but so fulfilling. I told Flo later that after getting to know his friends and his family, I felt closer to him. Closer to him in the sense that I was able to see him mingle with his nearest and dearest, and see how he treated them, cared for them, loved them. And it warmed my heart to know that his friends and family too, care for and love him the same way back.

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My Aunty Judy.

I initially wanted to post a picture up of Aunty Judy. But the one I had was too formal, too posed. I didn’t like it. I don’t have too many photos of her, or with her. I have a couple of her on video at family gatherings, but candid ones.

I grew up seeing Aunty Judy every Sunday. I call her Ji Kou, which means 2nd Aunt in my father’s Teochew dialect. She never married. But she treated us like her own, especially my cousins Ying and Yan whom she lived with, together with our paternal grandfather.

Eventually, we all grew up and Ji Kou also moved into an apartment of her own. She was never one to hoard, so it was kept very open spaced, very neat and tidy, very meticulous, just as she was. And in our haste to pursue life, we – I, didn’t spend as much time as I should have, could have, with her.

On occasion, I would invite her out for lunch with some of my other aunties, her sisters. Every Christmas, she would come to our home with the rest of the family to celebrate and have Christmas dinner. And just this Lunar New Year, she was her vibrant, active self.

I never thought to spend more time with Ji Kou, namely because she seemed to keep herself busy with yoga classes, and short trips to Genting with her friends. She watched her diet and in her late 60’s, still looked 15 years younger. (Yes, we’ve all heard the saying ‘Asians don’t raisin’. Quite true, especially for Ji Kou.)

Ji Kou taught my cousins and I to be more ladylike. She taught us manners. She taught us to not depend on men because we are awesome as we are. And she did this in ways that still puts a smile to my face when I think back on her words.

“Don’t sit with your legs open or someone might shoot an arrow in between and it will be very painful!” 

“Don’t eat with your mouth open or the flies will go in!”

“Finish every grain of rice on your place or your boyfriend/husband will have lots of pimples!”

“You don’t need your boyfriend to carry your bag for you! I see all those men carrying small handbags, you don’t think they look silly?! If you cannot carry your own bag then don’t bring one out!”

“Don’t make so much noise with your cutlery against the plate, it’s very rude!”

I remember all these words of wisdom of hers. And I honestly believe that they did have an effect on how I behave and act. Perhaps, in a comforting way, that’s a little piece of her that I will carry with me as long as I live. And if I pass them on to my children, then she’ll kind of live on through them.

I know that death is a part of life. And Ji Kou is now in a place where there is no suffering or hurt or pain. I just wish that when she went, that she wasn’t alone. But she was. And my uncle only found her about a week later (according to the coroner’s report). Knowing this breaks my heart. I hope that she was at peace when she took her final breath. And I hope that she knew – knows that she is loved and missed, by all her brothers and sisters, and all her nieces and nephews who she watched grow up.

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… And almond cake.

But before I get into the nitty gritties of my latest kitchen experiment, I had the privilege of baking Kim’s birthday cake albeit a little early since I’ll be away on her actual birthday.

She requested an Apple Walnut Cake with Peanut Butter Cream but as she’s pregnant and currently having to watch her sugar intake, I made this with 60-40 Coconut Sugar to Caster Sugar ratio, and refrained from adding sugar into the cream since peanut butter already has some of its own. I did drizzle more plain, melted peanut butter on top since peanut butter is love and who doesn’t want more of it?!

Kim’s special in that she was the one who recommended Dr. A to me. She’s a real inspiration to me and is someone I love and admire. Kim and her husband are both outstanding people not just in their accomplishments, but also in character. I know that both of them have gone through challenges in their lives, individually and as a couple, but God is faithful and they are now being blessed with a soon-to-be-born daughter whom I cannot wait to meet!

Now, this is actually a scheduled post and right now, I’m probably biting into a Currywurst and walking around Planten um Blomen in Hamburg with Flo. I’ll definitely be writing about my virgin trip to Hamburg as well as my 3484239th trip to London (first trip there with Flo though!) when I get back. In the meantime, I wanted to share this Date and Almond Cake recipe with you.

The Muslims are about to begin their fasting month and it is often the case that they break fast by eating dates. I have never fasted for religious purposes before, and I won’t even try to compare my ED days of extensive restriction to what my Muslim friends go through annually. I respect their steadfast dedication to their beliefs so what better than to demonstrate that than by baking a cake using dates!

Also… I just wanted to bake something different.

The beauty of this cake is that you get crunch from the almond nibs, a bit of chew from the dates, a hint of spice from the cinnamon, all smacked in the middle and on top of fluffy, vanilla cake!

Date and Almond Cake (Yields 1 8″ Round)

150g Finely Chopped Dates (I find it easier to cut them using a pair of scissors)
100g Almond Nibs
90g Brown Sugar
5g Cinnamon Powder

250g Butter
180g Caster Sugar
Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
290g Plain Flour
7.5g Baking Powder
125g Milk

  1. Preheat oven to 170deg C and line an 8″ round baking tin. 
  2. For the filling and the topping, mix dates, almond nibs, brown sugar and cinnamon powder together and set aside. 
  3. Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla and eggs one at a time. 
  4. Add dry ingredients and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry mixture. 
  5. Pour half the batter into prepared tin, then sprinkle half the date and almond mixture on top. Pour the second half of the batter on top to cover, before topping with the rest of date and almond mixture. Gently press the mixture down into the cake batter so that they ‘stick’. 
  6. Bake for 75min. If the top starts to brown too much, cover with foil for the last 15min. 
  7. Allow to cool before removing from tin. 

This cake is perfect for sharing amongst friends and family. Have it as it is, or if you’re feeling indulgent, drizzle some salted caramel sauce or honey on top. This cake has so many different textures and flavours that work incredibly well with each other. Definitely stick to the dates but if almonds aren’t your thing, switch to walnuts or pecan nuts. Not into cinnamon? Try ginger or cardamom!

Chances are, this cake isn’t going to last you through to when I return from my little Eurotrip. I’ll be back though so don’t you forget me!

And a quick update:

I saw Dr. A one more time last Monday because I wanted to get a little ‘booster shot’ before leaving for Europe. After a couple good weeks, ED is trying to hit on me again which is expected since that’s what bullies do. I’m anxious about how meals will be while I’m away but apparently, our body reacts to fear and excitement in exactly the same way. The only difference is how we perceive the situation. In other words, I may actually be excited about the different foods I’ll get to try especially in Hamburg – tasting things that Flo grew up with. Will I fall in love with them? We’ll just have to wait and see…

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