Intrerupte si calde

October 19, 2015 § 2 Comments

iarnaLa Praga am adulmecat iarna. Asa cum in unele zile de vara eu simt adierea toamnei, asa si toamna simt zvon de iarna. Sa-I spunem previziune meteo? Imi plac zilele gri – iar astazi se intampla sa fie una dintre ele. Cand e gri, ai doua optiuni: ori te inconjori de crizanteme parfumate, aprinzi o lumanare, doua, trei si pui pe foc o supa sau… te bagi la loc sub plapuma cu inca o cafea fierbinte si visezi.

christmas

La ce visez eu? La o iarna ca in povesti. Imi place iarna mai mult decat vreau sa recunosc. Imi place sa adulmec zapada inca de dinainte sa cada. Imi plac puloverele de lana sau de casmir, cizmele comode si confortabile, confortul unei paturi groase si a botosilor impletiti de mainile miraculoase ale mamaitei, mirosul de portocale sau mandarine, serile cu prieteni si vin fiert si cate o placinta. Iarna parca alung gandurile negre si fac planuri pentru: ghetute de Mos Nicolae, un cadou razlet, o punguta cu bunatati daruita unui om nevoias, o bataie cu zapada, o zi la ski.

Iarna inseamna pentru mine Rusia – nu mi-e clar de ce, pentru ca nu am ajuns pana acum in Rusia, dar probabil o asociez cu un frig napraznic. Inseamna cozonac pus la dospit si toate amintirile mele despre cum mamaia a copt niste sute de cozonaci la viata ei. Mers prin zapada care scartaie sub apasarea pasilor, ici-colo cate un petec verde intr-0 mare de alb. Covrigi. Ciocolata calda si colinde. Un somn greu, profund si taitei cu lapte si scortisoara la trezire.

Chiar sunt o rasfatata a vietii si multumesc pentru asta.

tren

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The magic of Prague (1)

October 18, 2015 § 2 Comments

Last year for Christmas we decided to offer each other a different type of gift: plane tickets to a secret destination. Elvin embraced this idea immediately as he hates shopping for any occasion. He surprised me with a trip to Portugal in June and I… well, I got us tickets for Prague, in October. An absolute win-win!

It’s easy to understand why I chose Prague: very similar to Vienna (which we both love!), a well preserved historical city and oh, so very romantic, especially in autumn. Also, I would lie if I said the amazing food scene didn’t make a difference in this choice.

Over time, I developed a strategy for fun, intelligent travel: as soon as I stumble on a random recommendation while I’m perusing the internet, I save it in a dedicated folder. For example, I recently came across an article with recommendations about Finland, so now I have a special folder for this which I know will come in handy at some point. I did the same with Prague over the last few months and it saved me a lot of hassle.

Here’s what I used this time around:

  • Accommodation recos – I was so happy that I took the advice of the wonderful couple at Le Blog Piquant. The hotel they recommended was perfect
  • What to visit – it’s easy to want to see and experiment everything when visiting a new place, but I like targeted, customized visits. I love using travel guides, but only for orientation. Andra’s website is the best place for off the beaten track recommendations and I love her style
  • The best of Prague – truly a comprehensive guide about the best places to eat, drink and have fun. This served us so, so well and I’m always grateful to find readily available information on ‘secret’ places
  • Friends – this goes without saying, I guess. Word of mouth recommendations rock. This time around we had a native Czech friend tell us about her favourite music clubs and restaurants – the girl clearly knows her stuff!

We stayed at Dahlia Inn, a lovely boutique hotel (only one floor) very close to the city center. This place is great on so many levels – easily accessible from the airport as it is 5 minutes away from Pavlova metro station and so well connected – tram #22 which is just outside of the building takes you to the city centre in a matter of minutes. The staff were incredibly nice and let us check in at the crazy hour of 10am (we’d had a super early flight in from Geneva). Our room was clean, cozy and warm. And the best part? At 49 EUR per night, this place is incredibly cheap. Definitely recommended and we’d go there again any time!

Prague has a very efficient transportation system – the trams and metro are reliable, fast and… good value for money. We bought a 3-day pass at the airport and it covered all matter of transportation, including to the city and back to the airport. By the way, travelling to and from the airport was so easy and probably one of the quickest trips we experienced when visiting a city. Elvin was such a pro at navigating the different maps and we found our way around very easily.

I’ll be back with a recap of the things we did and places we went to, but for now I leave you with two of my favourite photos from Prague.

ceas strada

 

What kind of person are you?

October 12, 2015 § Leave a comment

I don’t have quick fixes for those moments when everything seems to go south. I can’t tell you that drinking a glass of water or running a 5k will help (although secretly I know they do). In my job I often meet people who feel stuck in different ways. I come across lots of stories every day and sometimes, I even hold hearts in my hand, even if only for a brief moment. I see contentment, drive and crazy passion. I also see disappointment, victimization, low self-esteem and laziness.

It’s okay – I’m not trying to change anyone. But if I see a small flicker of fire in someone, I will do anything in my power to ignite it. Sometimes, if I’m really lucky, people will tell me that talking to me was like taking a big gulp of fresh air – and that makes me more happy than anything. Knowing that I  can change someone’s life for the better, even if for an inkling, is what makes me wake up every day.

To me, people are either like rocks or like rivers.

rock

Rocks are solid, fixed, almost immovable. They have a certain inertia and there’s something ultimately sad about them. People use rocks to climb on them or rest on them, but ultimately, rocks are there to be passed. They are the foundation for something else and change very slowly in time, under the influence of external climatic factors.

water

Rivers, on the other hand, are fluid, flexible and strong (although liquid – how crazy is that?). They create the course of things and find a way to move forward even when they are stopped. They transform and they come back. They are there to nourish and cleanse. Water is the essence of life.

If you had a choice, what would it be? Rock… or river?

fjord

Healthy lunch: enjoying sweet potato and butternut squash

October 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m passionate about healthy living, and healthy eating is a big part of that. The truth is I’m still learning a great deal – and will probably never stop learning – about what nourishes our body and what types of foods and food combinations provide the most energy.

I have a complex relationship with food: I love it and it loves me back, but it doesn’t always work out for us. 🙂

The reality is nutrition is simple and incredibly complicated at the same time. Eating for pleasure and eating for fun are very much about striking a balance – not always easy.

Nowadays I’m looking to eat nutritious foods which will give me the energy I need to sustain throughout very busy working days. I’m also working from my home office a lot these days which can only mean one thing: quick access to healthy meals and no excuses!
So here’s what I whipped up today on a break from the many conference calls:

Baked sweet potato and butternut squash with a bit of feta on top and some avocado

lunch

The WHY

I adore both sweet potato and squash and I want to take full advantage of them. They are loaded with good carbs, lots of fiber and a whole slew of nutrients. With the colder weather I am craving the convenience of warm, baked goods and this meal hit the spot. Once baked, I crumbled a bit of feta and finished the dish with a perfectly ripe avocado for healthy fats.

The HOW

Simply cube 300g of butternut squash and a big sweet potato (mine was also 300g). I placed them in a plastic bag and added a bit of salt, a great deal of zaatar and just enough paprika to set my tastebuds on fire, plus a bit of oil to slightly coat the veggies. Then toss them in the ziplock to make sure they are evenly coated with the spices. While they were baking (and that was really fast, less than 50 minutes!) I did another one of my conference calls. 🙂 Once out of the oven, I topped these beauties with feta and avocado. What an amazing combo and I loved the colours so much!

How I felt afterwards

Happy tummy! This meal warmed me up so much. Paprika gave an extra kick to the whole thing, and I had all the right tastes and consistencies represented on a single plate. I am definitely going to add this to my weekly rotation of quick, healthy, comfort food.
Reminder to self

The way you eat has a long-lasting effect on how you feel. Food is fuel – you just need to make sure you choose the appropriate fuel, in the appropriate quantities. This dish was loaded with all the good stuff and it left me feeling energetic and appropriately full. Adding healthy fat in the form of avocado goes a long way as it helps keep you satiated for longer.

Eating healthy and delicious stuff doesn’t have to be so difficult. All it requires is a bit of planning – creating a weekly menu and doing the shopping on time. Roasting veggies, pairing them with healthy carbs and good fats is so easy – and you can enjoy the leftovers too! 🙂 Go on, try my squash-sweet potato bake and let me know how you found it.

Celebrating 29. The more-than-perfect weekend in Leukerbad

October 1, 2015 § 4 Comments

I always seem to fall behind with travel recaps. We have have been away so much this year but there is no rendition of that on the blog.

So here’s what I can commit to:

  • Recap of our get-away in Albinen
  • Hike in Montriond
  • Vacay in Corsica
  • Holidays in Portugal

From now until the end of the year we have much more travel planned, so I’d better keep up to date with our whereabouts. 🙂

I owe the last weekend to Elvin. He booked the most gorgeous place ever to celebrate my birthday for what seemed like the most romantic and pampering get-away. To get to Albinen we took the highway that passes Lausanne and Montreux. I’m always so impressed with the views, they never get old!

montreux

Demeure des Elfes is perked up high in the mountains in a village called Albinen. The first time we went there was 3 years ago when I was still living in London. I adored the place and promised myself that one day I would come back. That day was my birthday this year. 🙂 Albinen is  a 5 minutes drive from Leukerbad, which prides itself with the oldest spa in Switzerland. Between the gorgeous nature and the more than perfect weather, we knew we were in for an amazing weekend. 🙂

As soon as we arrived at the cottage, Thessalia, the daughter of the owner greeted us with a home-made aperitif.

primire

We had booked the same room as the first time and… it was just as I remembered it… only better. The entire cottage has been refurbished and redecorated and it was simply perfect.

obersoncamera

I squealed when I saw the view from the balcony – it was truly breathtaking. The skies were clear, the mountains were standing tall and it was so incredibly p e a c e f u l.

balcon

view1

From the balcony we ran to the terrace, which had been completely re-done. The garden was in bloom and there were pumpkins hidden in the dense patches of grass. Also… a hammock!

garden 2hammock

We spent some time marveling at this incredible place but then it was time for dinner. We decided that a festive dinner was in order and chose La Croix Federale in Leukerbad. Upon getting there we realized we had been to the same place 3 years ago – quite the serendipity. The menu was full with delicious suggestions and we opted for an assortment of deer and game, plus local beer. We loved this place and would come back any time!

Driving back to Albinen we experienced the most serene, almost uncanny night. We stopped on the side of the road to look into the starry sky. The whole scenery resembled that of a movie… and yes, that is to be experienced and seen with your own eyes. No pictures here.

Back at the cottage we sipped on some of the 10 year old port which we had brought with us.

porto

We slept like babies and woke up to this beautiful breakfast.

brekkie 2brekkie

We had planned a most amazing hike (and long, and difficult) for today: the Gemi pass. Described as the classic among the classics, this hike did not fail to disappoint. We departed around 11am and came back at 19.15.

Some technicalities: the hike starts in Leukerbad and after ascending for seemed like forever 🙂 we reached Daubensee. This was the longest and most difficult stretch of the hike. It was probably what also killed my legs for days after the hike.

hike 1 hike 2

hike 3Daubensee is at the border between the mountains in Valais and the Bernese Oberland. A very strange-looking lake… but beautiful in the sunlight!

lake

And perhaps here’s where we under-estimated the difficulty and length of this hike, as we decided to keep going to Berghotel Schwarenbach. The way there was mostly descending and we never regretted our decision for a second, especially given the amazing food we were served there:

gulas

elvin food

tarta

The hotel looked really splendid and we agreed it would be amazing to spend New Year’s Eve there… one day. 🙂

pumpkin

By the time we set off again it was 16.15 and we knew the descent to Leukerbad was going to be technically difficult. Luckily I had my batons (best purchase ever) but to be fully honest, I was relieved when we set foot in Leukerbad again, as darkness was falling.

After a long, hot bath (ahh the bathroom at Le Demeure…) we slept soundly and woke up to a beautiful array of foods for breakfast the next day. I took a million pictures of the cottage, and what seems like 2 millions on the terrace where we sipped our coffee

terasa 1

We  had a hard time saying goodbye to our dear hosts, who generously offered me a jar of home-made confiture as a birthday gift. Sooo lovely of them! I took one last picture and we were off…

demeure

… to the spa. We had debated whether to go straight home or make a detour. Our muscles definitely thanked us for the hours spent in the amazing water and lovely sunshine. It was simply out of this world and we agreed that Leukerbad is probably one of the best maintained spas we have experienced.

view spa 2 spa 2 spa 1

We agreed that this weekend has probably added years to our life. 🙂 I am very grateful to Elvin for making this possible and… can I just say that I would like to spend my 30th birthday exactly in the same place, and in the same company? 🙂

The end. cer

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