Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Pearl of the Adriatic...Croatia

Have you ever dreamed of a place where the water is perfectly transparent, where the ocean sparkles like fairy dust gone wild and where the sunset are warm, deep and simply amazing?
Why of course you have!?
Did you ever think, however, that Croatia may just be that slice of paradise!?
I didn’t think so…

Croatia is really a paradise. You may not have white sandy beaches, but it exceeds your expectations in every other way. Every town has absolute stunning historical architecture that takes your breath away. Cobbles stones, churches and houses that resemble those out of a Disney fairytale. Spending a week there, hopping islands and exploring the coastline and sweet little historical towns, Croatia has really shown me a magical side that I never knew it had.

September is the perfect month to visit - less tourists decide to travel, yet the weather is nothing less than perfect. A week and no cloud in the sky…A week and a dream has been born. I now dream of owning a cute little place on an island somewhere in Croatia, with a boat, a scooter and no worry in the world.

  • Take a snorkel and lots of sunscreen!
  • Carry passport when you want to rent something.
  • For accommodation in the shoulder seasons, people will offer apartments when you step off the ferry. Cheap. Try it.
  • Don't bother booking a hotel based on the pool as the ocean is a huge pool in itself.
  • Taking Public Buses between cities?  You’ll need to pay 7-10kns (kunas) per bag, not included in the ticket price. Buy the ticket the day before and make sure you get an air conditioned bus if you drive over midday gets HOT!
  • Taking a ferry? Note that ferries between islands only operate on certain days. Check with a travel agent or google beforehand.

Our route:
Flew to Dubrovnik. Spent 3 nights there. Ferry to Korcula. 2 nights there. Ferry to Hvar. 3 nights there. Ferry to Split. 1 night there. Bus to Zadar. 1 night there. Flew back home from Zadar.

Verdict? Loved it all. Dubrovnik, Korcula and Hvar were all equally stunning but Korcula is still very untouched compared to the other two, a real hidden gem and I dream of owning a small apartment and boat there one day! Split and Zadar have very pretty historical old towns but they are bigger cities on Croatia’s coastline. Stick to the Croatian islands as much as you can and better yet, do the whole trip by sail boat! Heaven.

  • Stay in the old town
  • Rent a scooter
  • Have a sandwhich for lunch at Skola
  • Swim and sunbathe at Sv. Jakobs Beach
  • Take the cable car at sunset with a good camera!
  • Have dinner anywhere in the old town. Lovely pizza at Olive Pizzeria
  • Have a beer at Buza Bar on Durovnik’s old town wall. Take your swimmers and jump off cliffs

  • Rent a scooter and take the northern coastal road from Korcula Town, heading West
  • Stay in the old town
  • Go skinny dipping at sunset – the water is simply too amazing
  • Check out the beach Pupnatska Luca
  • Have lunch at Konoba Mate in a town called Pupnat - the garlic paste and eggplant is amazing
  • Definitely have drinks at Bar Massimo and try the Yam Yam cocktail for something sweet!

  • Stay at Amfora or close as there is beautiful swimming water out the front and wifi readily available
  • Whatever accommodation you choose, make sure you stay at a place where you get breakfast as not many restaurants or cafes do breakfast in town
  • Rent a boat and drive out to the Pakleni islands, find your own deserted bay and have a picnic -
  • Definitely have dinner at Dalmatino, a family owned quality restaurant with eall affordable prices. I had the Eros Carpaccio and homemade Gnocci, SO good and Grandma’s walnut cake is also yummy. Only she knows the recipe to this cake J
  • Tri prosciutto wine bar in the old town is a great place for tapas and wine
  • Rent a car or scooter if you have more time. Stari Grad is supposed to be the oldest town in all of Croatia and only 25kms away. This is also where the main ferry terminal or Hvar is

Split and Zadar:
  • Beautiful old town but no epic swimming when compared to the islands
  • Stay at Villa Hresc, if staying in Zadar. Modern accommodation, a cute little pool and great food (breakfast and dinner)
  • If going to Zadar, make sure to do an island trip to the islands facing Zadar. They are supposed to be beautiful

Finally, go to Vis! Something I wish I would have had the time for it. The island of Vis is supposed to be amazing for diving and a real gem in itself.

HVALA for reading my post and don't hesitate to contact me on I would be happy to answer any questions or receive comments and feedback on my post OR just leave a comment…it makes me HAPPY!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Crepe - All French but with a Secret Ingredient

Did you know that croissants were invented in Austria!? Crazy, hey? By now, obviously the French patisseries serve up the best buttery treats but, yes, croissants indeed originate from the land of the Wiener Schnitzels and Arnold Schwarzeneger. Click here to read more

What is indeed a French delicatesse, invention and staple, is the Crepe. That beauty of a thin, soft and pancake-like treat can be filled with anything from jam, strawberries, cinnamon and sugar to the all time favorite: Nutella and banana! 

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner and Dessert. All sweet or, serve or devour as you desire. Thank you La France for sharing this versatile treat with so many of us. 

I would now like to share this recipe with all of you. I discovered it through Jehnee Rains, a pastry chef on The Kitchn site. The speciality of this recipe is not the fact that it comes from a well known pastry chef (although this will, no doubt, also guarantee yumminess). What is REALLY special about this recipe is the SECRET ingredient. 

So what could this secret ingredient be that makes the crepe so fluffy and simply irresistible? The secret ingredient is:
The Belgian Blond Beer I had in the fridge
Reading this, I immediately had to try it out. Crepe pan on the stove, apron on and since I live in Belgium, there is always plenty of beer in the fridge. After a few unsuccessful tries and rather unattractive looking crepes, I had the flipping down and was loving the sizzling of the batter on the hot pan and the outcome of the circular golden goodness. 
First try
Second try...much better already!
Taste Verdict? Nothing short of lovely! The sides go slightly crispy and the taste is light and buttery. 
Voila! Les crepes son finits. Sucre? Chocolat? C'est tous bien :) 

Jehnee's Crêpe Recipe

Sweet Crêpe Batter
serves 4-6
2 cups warm milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup four
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 eggs
3/4 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup beer (any light lager beer will work)
Melt the butter and heat the milk to warm, over the stove or in a microwave. Meanwhile, mix flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer (or in a large bowl with a whisk ready). Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour eggs and oil into the well and beat on medium speed with whisk using the mixer, or vigorously with your hand-held whisk. Slowly add the melted butter and milk mixture until batter becomes uniform in texture.
Now pour batter over a fine-toothed sieve into another medium-sized bowl, pressing any lumps through with your fingers. Stir in beer, until just evenly incorporated (don't overmix). Set the batter aside, covered with plastic, for 8 hours or overnight, if you can.
Pour about 1/4 to 1/3 cup batter onto a smoking-hot pan, swirling the batter to create an even surface. Add a little more batter if needed. Little holes are okay while crêpe cooks — just 2 minutes on the first side (peek to see if golden brown color is there), then about 30 seconds on other side. Keep warm with sheets of parchment paper in between each crêpe, in a low oven, about 200 degrees until serving.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The All-Sweet Cherry Crumble

European summertime - a time for sunshine, barbecues, long days, lake swimming and STONE FRUIT! Eat them plain or select from an endless list of dessert options. I simply love them - Peaches, cherries, nectarines, plums and apricots. 

It is hard to go wrong with a good crumble. The sweetness and gooeyness of the fruit mixed with the crunchy crumble topping. Uiiiii, it makes me smile just thinking about it.

Serve it warm or cold, with vanilla sauce, ice cream or whipped cream. Cherries, peaches, rhubarb, apples...mix, match and GO CRAZY!

This is a cherry crumble a la Stella, packed with goodness and plenty of LOVE!

Cherry Crumble a la Stella
Filling Ingredients:
6 cups Cherries (I used cherries out of a jar)
1 cups white sugar (200gr) - YOu can use less if you want it less sweet
1/4 cup water (62 ml)
5 tsp cornstarch

Crumble Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats (90gr)
1 cup flour (125gr)
1/2 brown sugar (62gr)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter (113 gr)

1. Preheat the oven to 175 C (350 F)
2. Place filling ingredients in a hot pan and simmer until the filling thickens (5-10 min)
3. Combine the crumble ingredients using your hands until you reach your desired crumble. Set aside.
4. Butter a deeper baking dish (I used a 9"x13" for a thin crumble). Place the filling into the dish and cover with the crumble. Sprinkle with some vanilla sugar if desired
5. Bake for 35-40 min or until golden brown
6. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream, vanilla sauce or ice cream
7. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Love for Berlin

Berlin, my birthplace and only 23 years later do I return. My expectations big, my eyes wide, my senses alert…I could not wait! I had picked the right time to go – a long weekend, packed with sunshine and good company. Impossible to go wrong.

Arriving at 22:00 with the sun still in the sky, large boulevards take us into the heart of the city. The city is open, welcoming and I am immediately drawn to the abundance of green spaces, which are helping the city breathe. The buzzing life in a multitude of restaurants invite us for a lovely first evening meal and I am instantly in love.

Four days is a great amount of time to get that first taste for the city. Impressions? Berlin is no Paris of the world – it lacks the intricate beauty and charm. Berlin is no New York or London of the world – it lacks the money, business and fast lifestyle approach. Berlin is no Amsterdam or Copenhagen of the world – it lacks the sweetness. But Berlin is interesting and filled with rich and dense history, which can be felt on all streets and corners of the city. It is multicultural, curious, beautiful, artsy, bold and creative and full of creative ideas and hidden treasures.

Some of my recommendations:

1. Try and aim to visit Berlin in the spring or summer. Sunshine and good weather makes a big difference in this city. Cafes and people sprawl out onto the sidewalks, the lakes get populated with happy crowds and the beer gardens invite you to partake in daily festivities.

2. Rent bicycles. It is such a great way to get around, see the city up close and get in a bit of sunshine and exercise. Keen for more exercise? Go for a run in the Tiergarten. It is the Central Park of Berlin. Make sure to stop and smell the roses in this park (a.k.a grab a picnic and take your time to stroll around – it is beautiful!).

3. The city has an endless amount of amazing museums. Explore the Jewish Museum, not only for the rich history, but also amazing architecture of the building. The Museumsinsel boast magnificent buildings and a long list of art and history genres to choose from.

A poster from a photographer displaying his art on the Museumsinsel. The girl in white is not me but I almost fell of my bicycle seeing this as the resemblance from the side angle is absolutely amazing. My Doppelgaenger!

Holocaust Memorial
4. If you have a Sunday in the city, the Café am Neuensee is an absolute MUST! All of Berlin goes there to see and to be seen and to take in the ‘love-life’ atmosphere with family and friends. Go with an appetite as they serve gorgeous large pizzas in addition to our beloved Bratwursts, Bretzels, Bier and all other German goodies.

A Bretzel Vendor on his Bicycle
5. Another must is the Fischerhuette am Schlachtensee. By far one of the best outdoor Beergardens in Berlin, set right next to a beautiful lake. Take your swimmers if the weather is good to you and make sure you have nothing on your agenda for that afternoon as you won’t want to leave! We biked there from the centre of town (takes about an hour along the Ku-Damm and through Dahlem) but you can also take the S-Bahn (S1 towards Wannsee - get out at Mexikoplatz and walk 10 minutes to reach the Schlachtensee).

A postcard from the Fischerhuette am Schlachtensee
6. Haven’t had enough beer yet and the night is only starting? Check out the Prater Garten for yet another very traditional German, outdoor, beer-drinking venue. Its grungy, its artsy, its hip and its cool. Don’t miss it!

Prater Garten
7. Need to get your shopping fix or simply escape from the group of men you are traveling with? Check out Potsdamer Platz for a daily antique market, the Ku-Damm (Kufuerstendamm) for absolutely everything shopping-related and the Hackischen Hoeffe for boutiques, ice cream parlours, cafes and hidden treasures. Are you a Foodie and love food from around the world? Then Level 5 of the world-famous KDW Shopping Centre at the Ku-Damm is a must-see for you. You will find the biggest cheese selection you’ve ever seen, tropical fruits from all parts of the world, sweets, chocolate, pastries…the list is endless!

This city is fun, it is cool and it has STYLE! It may have been my first time back in 23 years but I can now say with confidence that after these 4 amazing days in Berlin, I will not wait another 23 years to go back. Summer 2012 here I come!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

California Dreaming...

For anyone that has not had the chance to travel to California, you may have a sense of curiosity, anticipation, wonder for the place…

There certainly has been for me, for a long time, and so I finally took the chance to satisfy my desire to see the place and turn my California dreaming into a reality…

Brussels to San Francisco

Glamour, sunshine, comfort, arts, happiness, lifestyle, fitness - What an eclectic bunch of people that make up California. This variety appears to be quite fitting when you realise the changing Californian coastline from North to South.
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco. We were lucky enough to discover San Francisco in perfect weather condition on foot and by bicycle, which allowed me to conclude - What an absolute beauty of a city! Light blue skies and dark blue water…green rolling hills in the background, set against the bright red Golden Gate Bridge. One is surrounded by absolutely breathtaking views, which seem to be endless from all corners of the city. San Francisco is a city that may leave you with the feeling of envy as it seems to offer it all. A city so many people dream of being able to call HOME.

Grab some great Italian pizza at Beretta (Get the Eggplant Caponatina as a starter. It is simply TDF!!!), some lovely pastries at Tartine Bakery and some fresh Vietnamese food at The Slanted Door. Make sure to book ahead for a Sunday Brunch at Lime Bar. Find all your shops by Union Square, jog or stroll through the Botanical Gardens. DEFINITELY rent a bicycle and have fun!

Tartine Bakery
Big Sur. You think Californian coastline and you may think flat, wide, open beaches with a promenade and Baywatch-style lifeguard posts. This is true for the southern Cali coastline (LA Region). What one may not always expect, however, is the boasting beauty of the Big Sur coastal stretch further north. A stretch of about 170 kms of rolling hills, cliffs, deserted beaches, dense forests, wildlife…a beautiful part of the world and a must see when visiting California.

Big Sur
There are too many adorable, quaint towns where you stumble across fresh farmers markets and cute shops (see Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterrey, San Luis del Obispo, Santa Barbara…). Make sure to grab a pretzel from Carmel’s Bakery – sweet or salty – they are ueber yummy!

Los Angeles. LA is glamour pure if you want it. You can find stunning restaurants that satisfy all culinary desires (try The Chaya in Venice Beach – stunning food combinations! I wanted to try it all). Take the time to explore the beach promenade through Santa Monica, Venice Beach…Manhattan Beach. What a fun stretch of beach to jog, ride your bike or, if you are brave and spirited enough, throw on those rollerblades. An eclectic and crazy bunch of individuals populate that area by day and night – it is by far one of THE best places I have seen to date for people watching.

California Dreaming. Do dreams really do come true there? I will be able to say next time…


Monday, March 7, 2011

Buenos Aires Baby

Large tree-lined boulevards, buzzing street side cafes, endless shops, stunning architecture and plenty of greenery. Welcome to Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America! A stunning city made up of several district, each one different and enchanting in its own way.

My favourite is Palermo Viejo and that is where my story begins. A new and trendy part of the city. Similar in many ways to Soho in NYC, as it reflects youth, art and style; it reflects life and living. Unique and stylish cafes sprawl out onto the sidewalks and an endless amount of trendy boutiques are filled with beautiful people smiling and chatting away. As a visitor, this was a scene I desired to be part off but maybe one day I can find myself a cute little studio apartment here and too become a local at one of the corner cafes.

Oui Oui Cafe in Palermo Viejo
Famous Medialunas
A visitor I was and unfortunately only for one week. I can say without hesitation, however, that it took me only a few days to realise that I had fallen head over heels in love with this city. In fact, I probably already developed a deep sense of affection for this city before traveling there in the first place. Why? Because this is Buenos Aires Baby. Bs As Baby!

I spent hours, DAYS reading up about the best cafes, bookshops, restaurants, city walks, parks, hidden markets, you name it to create the perfect little itinerary that would allow me to fit the most things in, in the least amount of time. I was on a mission, a mission to meet Buenos Aires and all the beauties that come with it.

I loved every little bit of the trip. Exploring the neighborhoods, the evening dinners, speaking Spanish, morning runs in the city parks, the shopping, the eyes one gets from Argentinian men, tihi, the polo and football matches, the Gelato, the boutique hotels, the Malbec red wine…and when in Rome, we definitely adjusted to Argentinian-time. This means having a sweet breakfast, a large and proper lunch, late, afternoon tea with plenty of sweets at 5pm and a late dinner, no earlier than 10pm! For those who enjoy a good night out (pretty much 95% of the BA population), will have a nap after dinner to then head out at midnight for some pre-drinks and hit the nightclubs no earlier than 3am. The night then finished with some breakfast at one of the many, inviting cafes at 8 or 9 in the morning, and this every weekend, if not more! No doubt a fun-loving city!

San Thelmo
The week took us to all corners of the city - Recoleta, Palermo, Puerto Madero, San Thelmo, La Boca… Walking the streets of Recoleta makes you realise why Buenos Aires is referred to as the Paris of South America. Parks, cafes, majestic apartment buildings and stunning architecture. Trees-au-masse, impressive embassy buildings, high end shops and people with class and wealth going about their daily business. The neighbourhood of San Thelmo takes you back in time with its cobbled streets, handicraft markets and local, aged populations peaking out of their 1st story buildings. This is where you also find the biggest antique Sunday market I have certainly come across in my lifetime. It sprawls across a beautiful piazza and further down a narrow, long streets for at least two kilometers.  You will find anything from silverware to old telephones, stamp collections and crystal. Anything from old books and signs to antique cameras and cookie, tin jars. It is one of many must-see’s in the city and although you may read about it in every guidebook on BA, you still feel surrounded by locals who go to catch up with friends, buy their new favourite trinkets and take in the Sunday atmosphere out in town. This is one thing I loved about BA - never really did I feel or get treated like a tourist. BA locals have the right attitude, they go about their days and are happy to share them with you. They will speak Spanish to you and treat you like any other odd inhabitant of the city. Thank you Buenos Aires.

San Themo District
A short taxi ride north from there you find sophistication and business; you will find Puerto Madero. Fancy restaurants line the boardwalk of the canal, filled with people in their business attire. Enjoy a cocktail or dinner with a view of glistering lights over the water and big boats and yachts docked on the side of the canal. And afterwards, stroll down the boardwalk in the warm summer evening air with an ice cream in hand and you will ask for no better way to end the day and night. 

Puerto Madero by night
Being in Buenos Aires, the home to big names like Maradonna, Pele and Messi, it would be a crime not to get tickets to a local football match either at River-Plate of La Boca Stadium. The football fever in the city is unlike anything I had ever seen before. The whole stadium pumps like the pulse of a heartbeat. You feel the rhythm, get so excited and cannot help but jump, throw your arms in the air and chant away to popular songs with thousands of other fans doing the exact same thing.  A real experience indeed; something that cannot re replicated anywhere else – truly Argentina-style. I loved it.

In stark contrast, the Polo match in Palermo was slightly of a different nature. Collared shirts, white trousers, champagne bubbles flowing and trendy, lounge music playing in the background. This was our introduction to our first Polo match, a sport very impressive to watch. The horses are magical; so perfect, fit and elegant, I’ve never seen anything like it!

The trip didn’t only take up to all corners of the city and into the stadiums of the country’s two biggest national sports – the trip even took us further out of the city and into the ‘Pampa’, as the Argentenians call it. This is where you find large ranches with plenty of cattle, more horses and rustic ‘Asados’ – or braais and barbecues as the South Africans and Australians like to say (respectively). The older you get, the harder it is to have ‘firsts’ of something. Well, I can say that this was my first time I got to have a little baby calf lie on my lap. So docile and sweet, I would have happily taken the little thing home!

My little friend
Traditional, homemade Dulce de Leche
Speaking of home, by the end of the week, I wanted to call this city my home! I wanted to take it all home with me – the whole lot of the experiences and memories, all piled into that one week. Amazing. A wonderful week. I can only hold on to my pictures now and my memories but writing it out in this story-like manner makes it come back in yet another vivid form. Buenos Aires is a truly great city and no doubt I will return soon. It may never be as good or exciting as the first time but it will become stronger and powerful each time in different ways – the same as love.

 Hasta la proxima vez Buenos Aires, te amo 

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