Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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.

 

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

One of the meals we most anticipated was exactly where every Asian visits whenever they visit London. I’m not kidding. Burger & Lobster probably makes most of its profits off of us because the place is filled with Asian tourists! Not just this one time, but also last year when I went to another of their outlets, and the time before then at another different outlet.

So you know, being Asian, I had to keep up with my flock. And also… LOBSTERRRRR!

Flo wondering if we were actually, really still in London.

While I had to engage in some selfies before the food arrived.

Lobsters in Singapore are not cheap. So when I first went to Burger & Lobster and found that they were selling lobsters along with chips and a side salad for £20, it was like lobster heaven to me!

Somehow, in a span of a year, they’ve rolled out a new menu that’s more expansive than their initial three choices – Lobster, Lobster Roll, and Burger. 

I’m not sure I like their bigger menu. More choices mean more decisions. And I guess Flo and I being at the Harvey Nichols branch meant that they’d kind of omitted some of the smaller sized lobster choices (i.e. cheaper items) so we had to settle for the 1.5lb lobster at £31 each. 

This is how I eat mah lobster!

I love pulling the chunks out of their shell and then, after piling them up, I dig in. The Garlic and Herb Butter that came with it upped the oomph factor and I enjoyed their simple, flavourful salad too.

I’m still a little bitter over the extra £11 we had to spent on the lobsters as compared to before. Gargghhh! I might actually boycott Burger & Lobster next visit to London onwards.

But onto chocolates…

I think this was the part of Harrods Food Hall that captured Flo’s attention the most. We went through the fresh foods section, and the cooked foods section, and the chocolate section, and the patisserie section, then back to the chocolates.

Where Flo suggested we choose a few artisanal chocolates to have for dessert/tea.

From William Curley‘s array of handmade chocolates, we chose two each.

Japanese Black Vinegar and Raspberry & Toscano for Flo. Walnut Feuilletine and Shiso Sudachi for yours truly.

From Harrods, we walked across to Hyde Park to savour our chocolate while bird-watching.

Beautiful skies and my favourite swans! Have you read The Ugly Duckling? Still my favourite story after all these years.

When we entered this area of Hyde Park, Flo and I got quite excited seeing deck chairs parked all along the grass. Until we noticed some men going around collecting money. So we sat ourselves on the grass instead before we spotted an unoccupied bench.

Flo pretty much popped his piece of Japanese Black Vinegar Chocolate into his mouth and declared that it was raspberry. We only figured out later, when he was eating his second piece of chocolate that that was in fact the Raspberry Toscano one.

I had the Walnut Feuilletine Milk Chocolate first but wasn’t really impressed. I expected more crunch and crispness from the nuts and the wafers but it tasted like it may have been out a while so were a little stale.

We spent a while just gazing at the lake and watching people get up close to the swans, ducks and geese to take wefies with them. It was quite entertaining considering that some of them were taking I swear, a few hundred pictures from different angles with the same swan. I laugh, but it’s not like I don’t take wefies or selfies, only usually I take them with people.

Next stop was Attendant at Fitzrovia. It took us a good 40min to walk from Hyde Park but it allowed us to walk through Mayfair and admire the pretty (expensive) shops along their High Street. Also, the old Victorian buildings, many housing embassies, stood proud and tall for us – they had every reason to as well!

It’s a little obscure but if you look out for the fancy black grills, there’s an entrance leading you underground. This used to be an underground public loo that has since been converted, and hopefully sanitised, into the cafe that it now is.

It’s not very big but it was very cosy. At 4.45pm, it was closer to being empty than full. Their menu isn’t exceptionally wide, but they had some baked offerings that looked quite delicious.

And of course, you will notice some of the remnants of the old lavatories, which definitely add character to the place.

I didn’t try but perhaps the hand dryer still works.

There you go! A wefie with the boyfie!

We ordered a cup of coffee each. Cappuccino for him, and a Piccolo for me.

With a side of Shiso and Sudachi Dark Chocolate. I had to check up what a ‘sudachi’ is and it looks very much like our Calamansi, which is essentially like a small lime with a lot more zing.

The Shiso was a little muted but I could definitely taste the refreshing tartness of the citrus fruit. It was good against the slightly bitter chocolate but I would have liked the shiso to have been a bit stronger.

And the Piccolo was nice as well with the chocolate. Again, I’m really no coffee expert so as long as I can down it, it’s good coffee to me!

Read Full Post »

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.

wp-image-1102128744

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!

Read Full Post »

Flo and I checked in for our flight to London late Saturday night before we went to bed. First thing Sunday morning, Flo received a message from British Airways informing us that our 9.45am flight was cancelled.

Still, as Jens and Leslie also had a holiday to road trip to, we killed two birds with one stone by having breakfast while also trying to clear their stash of fruits since they weren’t taking any with them.

Jens dropped us at the airport to sort things out. And as informed, our flight had been cancelled because of the technical failure BA was experiencing.

We were then offered a new flight out at 5.10pm because the 2.10pm flight had just been filled to full capacity. Apparently. 

The guy at the counter also gave us two refreshment vouchers worth €7.50 each which we later found to be completely useless because they could only be used in restaurants. I don’t think €7.50 would have been enough to buy us a meal at an airport restaurant to be quite honest.

Anyway, they also allowed us to check in more than one baggage each, so Flo and I sorted out what we needed for the day, and checked the rest of our luggage in. Flo then suggested we go to Hafencity, Harbour City, since that was an area we neglected during our city trip on Tuesday.

But not without stopping by the main station for a Berliner.

Which is essentially a fluffy jam-filled doughnut. Although the Germans call it Strawberry Marmalade.

Look how full it was!! It was quite light and fluffy, not at all oily like their American counterpart, and not quite as sweet even with the thin layer of icing over the top. Not bad but still not my cup of tea.

We arrived at Hafencity where the skies looked a little dull. We were almost regretting stowing away our warmer jackets in our check-in luggage when…

the clouds thankfully parted to give way to blue skies and sunshine!

It warmed up so much that we ended up peeling off our sweaters as we walked around Hafencity. It looks like an up and coming area with proud looking, modern new apartments and I loved that they were making the area both residential and commercial. There was a playground made with lots of wood. It looked both functional and artistic, and young families were crowding there for their children to play. I assume that on weekdays, the place is filled with office workers sitting by the harbour, munching on lunch, especially in good weather.

We walked to the end and round the corner where the Elbphilharmonie stood. It was a lot bigger than it looked! Like seriously. I didn’t think it was that big until I tried to fit it into my camera frame. And this was the best I could get.

The further away we went, the more intriguing the building became to us. Its glass reflected the sun like a sparkle amidst the ocean, and at some angles, it almost looked 2D. We even turned back at one point to see what looked like a Smiley face created by some of the glass openings.

We also tried, and failed, to take a wefie with the Opera House.

Although taking unflattering angles of ourselves did allow for the Elbphilharmonie to enter the shot.

The key when taking photos from unflattering angles is to pull a silly face.

We then went walking towards the old bridges of Hamburg.

These were incredibly sturdy bridges but walk over the wooden planks and you’ll realise just how uneven and warped some of them are. Of course, the loose ones have been replaced so you can see new planks here and there ensuring that the bridges are still safe for walking over.

From the bridges, we could see the old docklands. These buildings were once warehouses for all the goods being brought into Hamburg. At the top of each buildings, are the pulleys once used to haul all those goods up!

Most of them have now been refurbished on the inside and used for other purposes. I believe Miniatur Wunderland is in one of the old warehouses, as well as Hamburg Dungeon.

By the time we finished our walk, it was near enough lunch time. Flo and I returned to Landungsbrücken, but instead of going to Dock 10, we went instead to Blockbräu. We initially went up to their rooftop only to find out that their menu was different from the one indoors. So back indoors we went.

There was this big group of local tourists according to Flo. They might have come from Southern Germany and they were seated along the long tables. I took a picture just because I thought it looked rather cute and very Oktoberfest-esque. I didn’t realise they might have all come together on a tour.

Subsequently, I observed that all three tables were being served at the same time – salad first, followed by steak and fries, and packets of ketchup and mayonnaise. Flo eats chips/fries with mayonnaise and I thought it was just the oddest combination. I found out just yesterday while watching a programme on Youtube that it’s common in Germany and Norway, probably Denmark as well, to eat fries with mayo.

Already missing my brown shrimp, I quickly opted for Krabben with Volkornbröt. It was served over a mound of thinly julienned cucumbers and radishes.

The volkorn bread was a little too dry for me although it certainly tasted healthy with all its seeds and grains. And it was very filling too! I still prefer the crusty bread rolls that we had the other time though. Anyway, the star of the dish was supposed to be the krabben and the star of the dish it was!

Flo was super excited to see that Labskaus was on the menu. He had shared with me all about Ute’s labskaus and even planned on cooking it for my parents before. Only… it didn’t sound quite so appetising and when this dish was served, it didn’t look it either.

Labskaus is like a puree of potatoes, beetroot, spam and gherkins, served with a sunny-side up and matjes herring on the side. The herring was a bit of a let down after the ones we had before, but I had a try of the labskaus and was pleasantly surprised. It tasted so homey and comforting, and the flavours were so familiar, yet, I couldn’t quite put my hand on why.

Considering that the labskaus impressed me, Flo said that Ute makes it even better. That sets the bar quite high for when I get to try her version of this dish one day! 🙂

Speaking of Ute, upon finding out that our flight was cancelled and delayed, she sped all the way from home to come find us just so that she could spend a few more hours in our company.

We ended up going to Dock 3 where there was a beach bar with sun chairs for us to laze on.

The sun at this point was blistering almost. We could only take an hour or so there before Ute suggested we move into the shade where it was much cooler. Too late though, I managed to get myself a tan in Hamburg of all places! With sunglasses tan lines to boot!

Ute was so sweet to then drop us off at the airport. It was awesome spending those extra few hours we had in Hamburg with her. We were more relaxed this meeting and could talk and laugh over some of the things we’ve got up to over the years.

And then at the airport, we found out that our flight had been further delayed to 5.30pm, then to 6.10pm. Nice one BA. 

Luckily, Flo insisted on buying this snack, Balisto, because it was supposed to be really yummy.

We shared the packet which consisted of two bars. It tasted much like a digestive covered in chocolate, with a little yoghurt-berry filling. Not bad.

It was just enough to tide us over until we reached London. We were quite miffed that after all the cancellations and delays, we weren’t even offered any complimentary refreshments on the flight. On top of that, the family dinner we were supposed to attend had to go ahead without us.

When we reached London, we were also told that there were not enough gates available so the plane had to park somewhere else. Apparently it then got relocated and the buses were not informed, so they had to then rush over. When we got onto the buses, Flo wondered why we were taking so long to reach the terminal, only for us to realise that the plane had to park at T4 and the buses then had to drive us all to T5!

By the time we got our bags, it was 8pm UK time, 9pm Hamburg time, and I was getting tired and annoyed. To add to the stress, Mum’s plan to pick us up at pillar 22 got scrapped last minute. I only found out after 10min of waiting, after Flo asked me to turn on my wifi and the text my brother sent to me came in. It asked me to let him know when we’d come out so that he could leave to pick us up. Which meant that they still hadn’t left to come meet us.

When we finally got into the car, all I wanted to do was go home, get something into my stomach and curl up in bed. Which is what we ended up doing.

It felt like one bad thing after another after another. Still, I’m thankful that Flo and I managed to reach London safely in the end… And that our bags didn’t get lost in the process.

Read Full Post »

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.

wp-image--171274680

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

wp-image--1251766157

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

wp-image-619145166

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

wp-image-1721895216

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.

wp-image-1896055047

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!

wp-image--323771357

Digging in.

wp-image-859594874

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.

wp-image--431894697

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »