Friday, August 14, 2015

The Istanbul Adventure

Three years ago I wandered to a new territory, set foot for the first time in Turkey and visited Istanbul with my friends. Last days I was there with my amazing mother, with whom I have already been on so many adventures before and with whom I like to explore the unknown and discover new cultures and territories.

This adventure is something I am still processing, as it is truly amazing. Take note: this city has not been created for a city break only! Whoever plans to do that in Istanbul, commits a huge mistake. For this city has so much to offer, more than one can imagine, and way more than I have expected, and I am glad I was able to offer it more than one week of my life and get so much more in return...
However, I couldn't have enjoyed as much as I did, without a proper planning beforehand. The dimensions of the city are huge, but so is the number of interesting place to visit. I will detail more on those on future posts on the blog, so stay tuned!

Ligos, Byzantium, Constantinopole, Istanbul - it is many cities in one and yet one city with so many stories to tell. So many people have passed through, have been its guests, have left a mark on it or were influenced on their own by this city. The old city center, Sultanahmet, still breathes these stories of the past. With every footstep you take, you go where millions have already been before you, you are overwhelmed by the greatness of the constructions, by the simple moment you spend at a corner tea house sipping your tasty black Turkish tea, you are tangled within the streams of people walking each day on those streets, your blood starts rushing once you step into the Bazaar and start negotiating, and you are yet surprised by the tranquility which you find in even central parks, such as the Gulhane park, close to the Topkapi Palace.

Then you take a look at the Bosphorus, or even ride its waves to the next shore, you breathe in the air around you and just smile: you have made it! You are in one of the greatest cities in history (and in the world), and you have become part of it, part of its history. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Time for Meze in ISRAEL

You barely sit down at the table, and, even before getting the menu, you see some restaurant employees bringing you a big glass of lemonade or chilled water and one of them holds a platter with lots of small bowls which they place on your table.

These are the Meze, or, starters. It is a word I have heard being used in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus as well (I'm including only my personal travels here) for small bites of a dish. Usually put in the middle of the table, to share. Just a way of making a feast out of every meal. And it's about the spirit of community, of enjoying together, of sharing with your friends, family and all your loved ones.

But it is also about the pleasure of eating and what better way to discover a community or a culture than through its food. Meze in Israel have a wonderful mix of influences, most of them due to the great location at the Mediterranean but also very Eastern and with Arabic influence. Hoummus is never missing, but you also find a lot of dishes with or made from eggplants, you see salads made of carrots with spring onions but also ones from carrots with fresh coriander leaves (wonderful combination - I used this recipe at home as well).

 Here you can see how a table for two can look like in Israel... and all my cousin and I ordered were the mains (on the plates in front of us). Yes, the mains are rather expensive (and from the countries I've traveled to, Israel was unfortunately one of the more expensive ones when it came to food), but we got all what was put there in front of us, plus tea and desert at the end of what we can call a feast, not a lunch! Oh, and in case we would have been starving, we would have gotten refills on those meze, with no extra charge. In the end, it is so important that with only one lunch/dinner, you can learn so much about the culinary culture of a country and about what locals do when they meet: enjoy live to the fullest!

Monday, June 29, 2015

zChocolat - One Way Ticket to the South of France

It's the end of June, end even though my body is here, in Bucharest, I can not help to admit that my mind is elsewhere, wandering through the stone pebbled villages of the South of France. 

I can hear the steps I take down the stairs, walking towards the market place. Looking to my right, there is a small local bistro - most of the guests there are known by the owner and, while they are waiting for the food, they exchange some news and gossip. Just in front of the bistro, in an earthy-sandy square, some men are playing a boules game (maybe petanque), cheering or getting angry about it, depending on what team they are on. The yellowish colour of the stone houses reflects the warm sun of the noon and my eyes are drawn to my left, where the colourful market is waiting for me to absorb all the local aromas - the spices, the flowers, the food...

Once I open my eyes, I am back to reality, back in Bucharest. Fortunately, I have received this week a one way ticket back to the South of France: the new collection from zChocolat, with LOVE from PROVENCE. Once I opened the basswood box I discovered, to my delight, the typical recipes from Provence. The chocolates from the traditional collection, some nutty, some flowery in their aroma, and some just pure chocolate, are accompanied by southern French delicacies such as nougats, calisson d'Aix or the pates de fruits. Reminding me of the boules, the men were using in their game of petanque, are the round, chocolate-coated Provencal hazelnuts. The latter I am tasting now for the first time made by zChocolat. The verdict is simple: I can not get enough of them! I close my eyes and take a bite - the crunchy-ness reminds me of the sturdy construction of the southern villages, and the chocolaty coating, which slowly melts to reveal its wonderful aroma, emphasises the mildness of the sun and how it perfectly covers those buildings. Another bite, and I am back there. Thanks to zChocolat I now have the perfect vacation in a box - the essence of a wonderful region of France, all inside the new collection, inside my Provence Zenith Box.

You can now order the collection from here. The best thing about it - zChocolat orders are shipped anywhere, so you can soon receive your one way ticket to Provence as well! And zChocolat also has a summer packaging, which takes care that all their wonderful chocolates and delicacies arrive in perfect condition anywhere in the world.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Summer - Fun - Water - Yum

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

I cannot tell you this often enough! And it's not just me, it's also the health and beauty industry which tries to sell you all kind of products for hydration.  But then you know, the most healthy and natural of all methods, is to drink water! 

Did you know that, the moment you feel thirst, you are already dehydrated for several hours? This makes it even more important to have a bottle of water close to you and drink, drink drink! But still or even sparkling water can become dull. So why not take advantage of all the seasonal fruits or other aromatic plants that can make your water taste differently.

In the first picture, above, I have added some sour cherries, raspberries and basil for a sour yet fresh aroma.
The second bottle has lime in it. Both of them are made with sparkling water.

Also adored by my friends was a combination of lime, raspberries and fresh mint. And to add a bit of orient to one bottle, I mixed in 3 spoons of home-made strawberry syrup combined with rose-water. It was a hit! So let the fun in water-aroma-creation begin! And let your beauty shine from within!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

zChocolat - A Collection for my Mother


My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump

As sweet this quote from the famous movie is, as wrong it is about  some things. Life gives you someone you know you will have there forever: your mother, and of course, all her love.  The unconditional love and support a mother can give you are priceless and are life's biggest treasures. Each day, like from a great box of chocolates, she teaches you new lessons, shows you the way, lets you explore your senses, gives you freedom and still offers you strong roots to thrive on.

Whenever I open a box of chocolates from zChocolat I close my eyes and let my fingers pick for me - one chocolate of the collection will tell me about my past, another one will remind me of joy, the third will give me new energy to start all over again, the fourth will make me wonder about all the things I still have to learn in life - be it a new combination of tastes or a new episode from my story.

When I received the Mother's Day zBox 15 from zChocolat, I knew this box was destined for my mother. This seasonal collection offers something new and something traditional, just like what mothers offer their children every day. The packaging is a light pink adorned with a lotus flower, a symbol of love, purity and rebirth. Inside you will find chocolates from their traditional collections, which tastes I have described in previous posts on this blog - absolutely sublime.

Any mother's life is all about her child from the moment she gives birth (or even before that), so this zBox 15 was a great occasion, since mother's day is approaching fast, to offer my mum time for herself, to indulge. I secretly watched the sparkles in her eyes while she was having a cup of tea and secretly eating the chocolates. She enjoyed every minute of it and that made both of us very happy.

My mum will probably say: Life is like a box of zChocolates: new yet traditional, indulging, relaxing and very tasty ;)

You can find the Mother's day collection here. Oh - and one more thing - with the zChocolat boxes of chocolates, you will always know what you are getting, and that is high quality, great taste, craftsmanship, tradition, and last but not least - quick delivery.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weekend Travel Light Bag

Since we are approaching a long weekend, and after a discussion with a friend about how to pack light, I decided to share my tips with you.

Last few years have taught me how to reduce "stuff" I take with me on travels and how to stick to what's essential. So here is a list you could consider:

- toothpaste
- toothbrush
- hairbrush
- deodorant
- perfume
- make-up

-->   all of these in small containers. Ignore the shampoo/wash gel, because you will find these wherever you go, be it a hotel or some friend's place. Towels as well - no need for those either, as you will find some at the destination.

- a big scarf - It can serve multiple purposes: you can roll it like a pillow for the plane-/train-ride, cover yourself in it if it gets chillier on a summer evening, wrap around your throat so you don't catch a cold, or even cover your head with it if you, for example, visit a Mosque or a church or take a boat-ride or a city bus-ride on an open double decker.

- an extra pair of trousers - I've learned this the hard way one winter on a trip to Paris, when it was horribly cold outside and I unfortunately stained the only pair of trousers I had with me, so I had to wash that stain off and it was not completely dry the next morning. It was a Sunday so shops were closed, I could not buy a new pair, so I had to walk in that cold with a part of my leg being exposed to the freezing cold. Since then I always have an extra pair with me, even if I travel for only 2 days!

- a sweatshirt/cosy sweater - ideal for the flight, for sleeping, for walking -all you want is to "enjoy the ride" so the word "comfort" should be a guideline for your packing habits

- an extra (light) pair of shoes - for example flexible trainers like those from Nike Free collections - in case it rains and your first pair of shoes is drenched or if you have hiking planned - these are perfect

- Monochrome Tees - easy to match with everything and easily accessorized with the scarf I mentioned before

- Pay attention to your outerwear - in spring weather changes easily - be sure to have something which is fir for rain and with yet light to carry. 3 in 1 jackets are my personal choice

- don't forget your sunglasses - in any season - especially if you are traveling by plane; your phone charger and those easy-to-store in-ear headphones for music

Enjoy the weekend!

P.S. I'll let you in on a secret - if you want to pack that extra sweater or extra T-shirts/trousers, but the space in your bag is insufficient - use vacuum sealed travel bags in order to reduce the volume to a half. This way you can still travel with only one bag and yet have more choice of clothes on the way. Good luck packing!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

London's Sky Gardens

 To all out there who want to have a stunning view over London and to have an experience they will not forget so soon, book a time slot to visit Sky Gardens, located on the 35th floor at 20 Fenchurch Street. This 38-storey building is the fifth tallest completed building in the City of London and offers incredible 360 view.

The visit is free, however, you will need to book in advanced as every visitor is offered a time-slot. You will also have to undergo an airport-similar security check at the entrance.

Opening times are Monday to Friday 10am to 6 pm (last booking slot 4.30 pm) and on weekends 11am until 9pm (last booking slot 7.30pm). I had my visit on a Friday at 10am, it was really nice because it was not crowded so I was able to enjoy the view and take as many pictures as I liked without being interrupted. My mother and I sat down at the end of our tour at the cafe located in the garden-area, and enjoyed cappuccinos over the rooftops of London. From above, the city looked much more tranquil and it was a nice break away from the city's swarm.

As we entered the lift to get back  to ground floor, the sir who was in charge of us arriving down safely was asked by another visitor which would be the best time to visit, from his point of view. He mentioned after sundown, when all the city is lit and you can have another experience than during the day. I saved myself that experience for my next visit to London. However, if you visit London for the first time and you are not very familiar with its geography, I recommend the day-time visit.

Have fun and enjoy!

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