Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Lactose-Free-Thing

Chocolate Mug Cake

Happy Sunday!

Despite my love to France, I have to deal with one big issue here: my lactose intolerance.

Maybe French genes are composed differently, but every time I enter a supermarket I feel that they have never heard of this allergy. Shelves full of yogurt, milk, cheese (oh-how-yummy-is-that) - but nearly no lactose-free products. OK, might be that I am a little demanding since I neither like soy products nor sheep milk, but still - in other countries like the US or Germany I find plenty of special products.

Even Starbucks here in France cannot offer lactose-free milk which helped me to save a lot of money as I have stopped going there. And this is a true shame because sometimes there is no better than a Chai Latte or a Hot Chocolate on the way to work (right, I still don't touch coffee, though I am a stressed student).
Luckily, I can still have my favourite cheese "Comte" as it is hard cheese that hasn't any lactose left. Yet, Camembert is excluded from my diet.

What about you? Has anyone of you faced same problems? And more important - how do you overcome them?
I, for instance, import some dairy products from Switzerland and Germany from time to time when I feel the urge. However, I adapted my diet a lot since I got the diagnosis.
Finally, I found some great recipes to replace the conventional dairy product by other products that are composed by the same nutritional values. Only last week I tried this Chocolate Mug Cake and combined it with a lactose free yogurt (bought in the super market and pimped it with some chocolate chips). While I normally need dairy products for desserts, this is one that is incredibly delicious without!

Preparation I
Lactose-free yogurt
Finished (and yes, I don't have a pic with the final dessert...)


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Louvre and its Mona Lisa

Gracious
The Louvre. Thousands of paintings, kilometers of hallways and tourists from all over the world – except for me. I have always avoided the queue in front of it and when people were talking about the Mona Lisa and how disappointed they were by its size, I could only nod and think of a tiny little square on a wall, captured by millions of smartphone flashes. Until last week. Then I even went twice into the historic monument that unifies history, art and French architecture.

The Mona Lisa – Having heard all that stories about its size, I kept my expectations rather low and eventually met what I had expected. A decent painting, protected by glass walls and a bundle of tourists standing in front of it. I know that lots of people only enter the Louvre to have a glimpse at her and then leave as quickly as they came. Luckily, it was late on Wednesday night and so I could truly admire the painting and look at it from different angles. The multi-perspective is what makes the Mona Lisa so fascinating : She always looks straight into your eyes with an even but mysterious smile.
The Louvre is huge. Therefore I only visited the Italian, Spanish and American painters as well as the Egypt section (1st floor). Since it is impossible for me to concentrate any longer than two hours on museum items I am obliged to split my visits into different parts. Telling you that, I will return tonight again.

Two days after my first visit, I went back into the reverent halls. Though, the paintings weren’t my goal at all but a dancing event in the middle of the œuvres. It was a magnificent atmosphere due to the baroque music and the great architecture that surrounded the young artists. Next time such an event is offered, I will definitely will be amongst the first to go !

My advice : Best times to visit the Louvre is in the winter months. Apparently Paris is less flooded by tourists then. Yet, I highly recommend to visit it during the night sessions (Wednesday and Friday) : After 8PM only few people stroll through the hallways. As most museum in Paris, the Louvre is also free for students under 26.

Art in different ways
The Pyramid

video

P.S. Sorry for the video quality...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Brussels, Belgium: Chips, Beer and a tiny boy

Mont Des Arts

Good morning, 

Last Friday night I was startled out of my sleep and sat bold upright in my bed. I dreamed of how I strolled through narrow streets, saw those high vitreous buildings with European flags right upon my head and held a bagful of chips (American: french fries) in my left hand: I was obviously recapitulating my visit to Brussels three weeks ago. Instantly, my unconsciousness reminded me of how I apparently forgotten to share this weekend trip with you. But I guess it’s never to late to show you some tips around the city and to show you a couple of pictures of the European capital.
To begin with, let me tell you one thing: I am not crazy about Brussels. It might have been the cold weather or that I expected more from such an important place, but the city didn’t touch me. Apart from professional reasons or friends who live there, I don’t plan to go there another time for touristic activities. OK, I sound like a horrible person; every Belgian reader will now close the window and will never ever stop by my blog again. No! Stop! Despite the fact that I couldn’t connect to the city (as I couldn’t to Las Vegas neither), I found some places that I absolutely recommend to you. And maybe I have missed out the best places to go – I highly appreciate your tips to convince me to give the Belgian capital a second chance.
P.S: Taking a look at the pictures, you must say ‘Svenja, don’t exaggerate, but Brussels is a beautiful city’. In my opinion the appearance is deceptive: I only took pictures of the nice streets but how often was I surprised to change the block and to find myself in a shabby backyard. Of course, I didn’t take pictures of those corners.

La Grande Place

Restaurants
  • Do: Belgium is known for its chips culture. Yes, I call it CULTURE. Never mind what dish you order, chips always complement it. During my short two-day trip I stopped twice (!) at the Friterie Tabora (Taborastraat 2) and always chose the "Sauce Andalusia".
  • Don’t: The Rue des Bouchers (Butchers' street) can be found in every tourist guide since literally every restaurant offers 3-course-menus from 12 Euros upwards. Listen: For this little amount of money, you rather should expect a modest gastronomical experience. And having a guy standing every 5 meters in order to drag you into his "great and cosy" restaurant, makes me going crazy and instantly refusing to step inside the establishment. Dear restaurants, if you want me to have dinner at yours, please let me read the menu carefully, don’t approach me 10 meters before your place and don’t follow me for 5 minutes afterwards!
  • EXKI: While in Paris, I have never seen EXKI over here. Though in Brussels it was omnipresent, so I definitely check it out very soon in France. The dishes? Fresh, green, natural. The atmosphere? Modern, yet cosy. The prices? Reasonable. All in all: my next lunch spot.

Bars & Nightlife
  • Although I am German, I don’t like beer (no foreigner tends to believe that). Yet, in Belgium there is basically no other choice than beer, beer or… beer. Thanks to a huge choice of different flavors, almost every person can find something for his or her taste – even me: Kriek. It is a beer made out of cherries and is the sweetest beer I have ever tested, but the girl in me approves it.
  • The Interail-Backpacker amongst you have probably heard of the famous Delirium that reminds me of a big labyrinth since there are so many stairs, dance floors and bars that you easily can get lost. The chance is even higher when you are drunk. While I there stayed for only a couple of minutes, I had a great night out at the Celtica, an Irish pub in the city centre. Downstairs you enjoy your 1 or 2 Euro beer while happy hour (yes, Kriek!) and upstairs the dance floor invites you to shake your booty to current music. I love such places where I can switch between the wild craziness of house and a good talk to friends with acoustic guitar sounds. 

Cafés
  • Waffles: Another Belgian speciality are the "gaufres" (= waffles). I recommend the Gaufres Liégoises since they have tiny sugar bites in the pastry while the Brussels style have the sugar on top. And be free with your choice of topping: Strawberries, bananas, cream and chocolate and so on and so on. I only went for chocolate, another Belgian delightfulness (see below).
  • The Coffee Company: After the night out, I was keen on having a good lactose-free hot chocolate and a fresh breakfast. On my way to Menneken Pis, I crossed this coffee bar that turned out be the perfect spot for my attempt: fresh fruit juices, coffee variations comparable to Starbucks and savoury sandwiches – all combined with a nerdy but cosy atmosphere in which you feel comfortable, especially when you are alone with your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Activities & Shopping
  • Manneken Pis: It is THE sight in Brussels. So I had those pretty high expectations when I went looking for it and of course, I was very much disappointed once I found it. I imagined the sculpture to be as high as a normal man, standing in the middle of the Grande Place and pissing into a large round fountain. Ehm, no. The tiny boy is 10 minutes away from the Grande Place, glued into a corner and would be overlooked if not a hoard of tourists stood in front of it (It strongly reminded me of the Little Mermaid Experience in Copenhagen). Oh and this is actually only a replication since the original is in the local museum. At least he wore that cute uniform.
  • Atomium: I took a couple of typically touristic pictures but didn’t climb the sight since Brussels’ skyline seems to be little stunning.
  • Neuhaus Chocolate Factory: Today’s secret tip for you – trying all kinds of luxury and high-quality chocolates without paying a cent. And if you decide to buy a box, you pay a lot less than you do in Brussel downtown or the airport duty free. This, I call chocolate heaven!
  • European District: As I consider myself as a European, I absolutely wanted to check out the European district with its Commission and the Parliament. Luckily, sun was shining at its best, so that we could include a walk through the mostly vitreous buildings (the European tax payer pays mainly for window cleaning…). We quickly checked out the Parliament museum where we could have stayed a lot longer, if weather had not been so nice. I loved the square "Jourdan" with its lovely Sofitel and another great chips place!
  • Mont des Arts: Brussels’ downtown is fairly manageable. The Mont des Arts (Art Mountain) is only a stone throw from the Grande Place and welcomes you with a lot of museums and garden alike installations and ends with the Royal Palace on top of it. It was actually the most peaceful place in the city which is why I liked it the most probably.
  • Hoogstraat/ Rue Haute: If you like vintage clothing, this street is an absolutely must-see. You find shops where you pay by kilo and not per item. On Saturday morning there is also a flea market on the nearby square.

Personal recommendation
  • If you stay longer than a weekend, plan a trip to Ghent or Bruges that are both easy accessible by train. The SNBC offers a ticket for 50 Euros that allows you to undertake 10 train rides within Belgium. Only the rides count and not the person detaining the ticket which makes it a great opportunity for groups (they have other great offers for particularly young people).

More Information

Personal Data
  • Visiting Date: Weekend March 2014
  • Accommodation: Private accommodation at a friends’ place
  • Highlight: Chips? Waffles? Beer? Chocolate? All that unhealthy stuff, you know. I felt so guilty that I only ate apples and vegetables three days after my trip. But those treats make life great! 
European Commission
Neuhaus Chocolates
Atomium
Street
Manneken Pis ...
... or Manneken Peace
Waffle
Park at the European Parliament

Sunday, 16 March 2014

St. Patrick's Walk

Walking through Paris' streets

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Okay, all Irish would now say, ‘Svenja, you are one day early!’, and I am totally aware of that, but since Monday is no good day to go out, we even celebrated the Irish holiday yesterday. This is why I've just come home as I slept over at some friend’s apartment after some bar hopping at the Bastille district.

Preparation for a dinner with friends

Paris has been such a treat last week. Clouds were nowhere to be seen; I wore flats and had dinner at the border of the Seine River. It’s been a perfect spring week that continued the weekend. Therefore I yesterday went on a walk with a friend, when I bought this new blouse. I wasn't in shopping mood at all but when I entered the boutique and two extremely convincing salespersons treated me like the queen of fashion, I couldn't resist. In French I would say ‘J’ai totalement craqué pour la chemise. Poouuuf.’ It is made out of silk which is – in my opinion – the best material for hot summer days. On one hand it is a little bit 70ies but on the other hand, when I wear it open, it entirely changes its style into a more kimono alike blouse.

Blouse (Sandro Paris)
Cut Outs at the back
Outfit: Blouse (Sandro Paris) - Jeans (American Eagle Outfitters) - Slippers (Vietnamese Market) - Bag (Michael Kors) - Watch (Tissot)

Continuing my spring mood, I also bought a bouquet of flowers for my apartment (after lately having seen all the beautiful bouquets here, here and here, I just had to get some myself and couldn't believe how addicted I am now to fresh flowers!). Unfortunately, the great weather also has a negative aspect: We have extremely high pollution right now so that I couldn't even see the Eiffel Towe anymore. Consequently, the government offers public transport, electric cars and bikes for free all weekend long. Actually, I will now jump on a bike in order to get to a charity brunch for Cambodian children. Have an amazing Sunday, celebrate St. Patrick’s tomorrow or whenever you like and enjoy your week!

Flower Bouquet

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Weekend Escape

Sun Bathing

Hellohej my dears,

I am in such a good mood today! The sun is shining and birds are singing – first signs of spring I reckon?! No thick winter coat anymore but colourful flats and light pullovers are on the agenda. Well and on top of that, it is the first family reunion for more than 6 months since my brother finally came back from New Zealand (hell, his pictures want me to leave instantly!) and I decided to join them for this weekend in Geneva home. Hence, no Paris again but regarding these great couple of days I spent here, it was so worth it!

2,50 € left before taking the train. And I buy cheese and a fashion magazine for dinner. 
Home sweet home

As it is still winter, there was no objection to go skiing. I guess, this time it was really the last time for this season. Therefore, I even more enjoyed every minute and obviously cannot wait to be on the slopes again in a few months. The sun , the snow, the fresh air, the speed. It is passion. It is freedom. It is love. And it is a nice sunburn in my face that makes me look like a raccoon. "Funny" comments by colleagues are pre-programmed.

Sea of clouds.
Passion.


But Geneva times doesn’t only mean skiing but also time with my friends. For instance, I am on my way to meet a former school friend in a couple of hours in order to grab my favourite lactose free hot chocolate at Starbucks and walking around Lake Geneva. When I see the stunning nature in this area, I face difficulties to take the train back to Paris. And yes, I know we talk about Paris. But before it’s time to go back, I rather head to the kitchen now in order to prepare some delicious pancakes with strawberries and maple syrup. So, who is up for going to work tomorrow? I am definitely not. 

Strawberries & Pancakes = Sunday's best
All time fav: lactose free Starbucks hot chocolate

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Winter Flu: (Chicken) Vegetable Soup


It might have been the Belgian cold weather, the tons of french fries or just a lack of sleep: I am ill. The last two days I worked on a stand-by-mode and chose the pullover that I would wear for work to stay warm and which I can snuggle up into while surfing the metro. After two days of pitying myself I today decided to actively fighting against my little flu, so I eventually dug out an old recipe that I've "invented" (probably not) a few years ago: (Chicken) Vegetable Soup. It is full of all traditional remedies like garlic, ginger, fat and vegetables. If I am not a 100% fit tomorrow again, I don't know what is going on.

Ingredients: 

1 l of water
1 tin of vegetables (I took carrots, peas and beans)
1 small onion 
5 slices of ginger
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of vegetable stock (or beef or chicken)
some rest of noodles
salt, pepper, oil

Heat some oil in a pot and sweat then the small cut onion and garlic. Deglaze with the water and wait until it boils. Add the noodles and the vegetables three minutes later. Cut the ginger into fine slices, add them to the soup and flavour the soup with the stock. Before serving add some seasoning (be careful, stock is already salty!). 
For the non-vegetarians: While heating the water and noodles, you can roast 1 to 2 chicken breast(s) in a pan aside until it is gold-brown. Then cut it into small pieces and add it to the soup just before serving.

To all the ill people: Get well soon!

Cut onions into little cubes
If you don't have small noodles (as me) just smash normal ones.
Bon appétit!


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Recap

La grande finale - it's Sunday!

Good morning everyone!

I hope you have a great weekend so far. Today, I want to be honest with you right away: This post has been written Friday night after an Opera representation (Puccini) since I left to Brussels, Belgium, yesterday and stay there until tonight. But at least, I won't disappoint you again with my disappearance on a Sunday morning (I know you are craving for it every week ;-))

You've probably also recognized that I haven't posted anything during the week. There is only one explication: Paris fashion week. Ok no, I am absolutely joking. Even without fashion week (or let's say: very little in my case), I had to deal with stress this week. One could say - why isn't she writing her posts in the office as she used to do? Exactly that's the problem. I had to move. It's only been two desks further, but eventually I had to give up my comfort zone near the window and had to exchange it against a spot next to the corridor. Not even I dare then to do other stuff than writing mails or filling Excel sheets.

After one year of break, I started running again and from now on I run twice a week with a friend. It's not only in order to shape my body (summer is approaching...) but I just feel so much better after an hour of running through the streets of Paris. By the way, if anyone knows a great spot to run here, let me know as I am desperately searching!
Then on Wednesday I went to the so-called "Cordonnerie", the place to be when looking for really cheap beer. Next night, we celebrated a friend's birthday with tons of savory food from all over the world: Greek, Irish, German, Italian...
And finally yesterday, I could go get a little glimpse of the on-going fashion week. After work, I straightly went to the Grand Palais where Vanessa Bruno's show took place and not only could I see some models and celebs but even more was I fascinated by the street style in front of the building. Young bloggers and fashion lovers wore newest Kenzo shirts and fancy skirts, colourful hats and high shoes - a dream for a fashion lover as I am. I continue this routine the next three days and will then post a recap of the best shows and new styles in front of the actual event.

So long, enjoy your Sunday!