Monday, February 21, 2011

So late into 2011

It has been simply ages since I even touched my blog. Not so much as I lost interest but time was not so kind to me. There were just so many things to do and see to.

The first month of the year was dedicated to moving house and settling in. In fact, we are still moving furniture about and rearranging carpets and what not. Trying to find the most suitable place and thing for every room. My living room is still not complete and I guess we will get to that room eventually.

As far as events go, my maid of 2 years also just left over the weekend. It was a rather sad and tearful week the last week. The two younger kids are taking it the hardest of course. Khadijah takes such a long time to warm up to people which means I dont get much rest, She just clings to me. I am sure over time it will be much better with the new maid.

I have also started Ali at school. he seems to be enjoying it although he has not named any friends yet. Will see how this first week at school goes, he has gone 3 days in total. No tantrums in the morning and goes willingly but to get him dressed and ready does take some time lah.

The weather is just so extremely hot these days. Humid and sticky. Feel like having a shower the whole day. Makes you extremely lazy too.

Next post will try to put up some pixs of the new house!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Home from Italy

Our flight home was from Rome. We had planned to spend 2 nights in Rome but in the end we never even made it to the city. We only had a night and we decided to stay near the airport. Which means we have to go to Rome another time.

We stayed at Fumicino, it is a fishing village and very quiet despite the fact that the airport was just 10 minutes away. The hotel we stayed at was very nice for Euro85. The rooms were big, 2 rooms actually!

Our last dinner that night was seafood of course but it was not as good as the one we had in Cavalier or Bologna.

We had clams ....

Fish, mussels and pasta

Risotto and mussels

The flight home was good and we were dying to see the kids. Khadijah was well behaved on the plane. We can definitely take her again.


Bologna is a very serene and peaceful city being a university town and all. There are attractions there but mostly historical buildings and churches with several great artworks found here and there. Only when we there we found out there is an international airport but airlines like France Air would take you direct to Kuala Lumpur. Something to consider seriously as I would love to go back there again and really explore the city.

After 2 nights in Bologna we took a drive to Florence or known to the locals as Firenze. Don't understand why they don't just call it Firenze. We thought it would be a long drive but not so. We took less than 2 hours. Once we got into the outskirts of the town it took us longer to get to the hotel because we arrived just after 5 or so and got caught in after office traffic.

Driving around the city I actually saw a sign pointing out to a sex shop. hmmmmmm .... Anyways, the drive from Bologna to Firenze was mostly on the highway but even then we could still catch glimpses of scenic views like this:

What is my take on Firenze? I love it. The old architecture, the cobbled streets, the historical buildings. The air. Everything. We spent 3 nights there and you know what? Not enough. I didn't get to go into the Uffizi, I didn't get to see the Gardens, I didn't get to go on that famous street on the bridge where there are jewellers, I didn't get to see the Duomo up close. I know! We had 3 nights. Day 1 we arrived late already and just walked around a bit, looked for dinner and retired. Got up Day 2 and Bob decided he wanted to drive back to Bologna to get more "stuff" from his bike shops. So I wondered around Firenze and saved it all to do with him. Day 3 we only managed to do the Michael Angelo Square to catch the gorgeous view.

We had time to see the Salvatore Ferragamo museum, something I have always wanted to do but was disappointed though. There was a tribute to Greta Garbo on so I could not see all of Ferragamo's work of art like I wanted to. The boutique was very nice though.

This was our last chance to shop so we shopped lah. And we discovered everything on foot. We only walked along the Tombuoni Street and some streets off of it which is hardly an inch of the city. But isn't it gorgeous?!

This is the hotel where we stayed. Club Plaza. It belongs to a chain of hotel BH Group. They own a whole group of hotels along the street. Good business this hotels!

However, when we left Florence to head to Rome we stopped at The Mall. Its a factory outlet place and really some good buys there. You get brands like Gucci, Ferragamo, Zegna, Bottega and Dior. Next time I will just head straight for these outlets to shop. Really good bargains!

When we were at The Mall, Bob made a beeline for Zegna and I waited at the cafe and had a really good cup of hot chocolate Italian style which might as well have been chocolate mousse! Whatever it is, it was delicious. Writing this now makes me wish I had a cup infront of me. Looking at the machine, I really believe it is just melted chocolate.

This is a beautiful postcard of Firenze from the top of Michael Angelo Square. You can see the whole city and most major sights from here. It really helped that the sky was good that day.

Oh ya! In Firenze we stayed at 2 hotels. This is the first hotel we stayed at. It also belongs to the BH Group. I just loved the courtyard. Could imagine having scones and hot chocolate accompanied with cannolas here everyday. Sigh .... a dream but a good dream eh!

This overpowering door was along the street where we stayed. It was night and we were looking for food but I was so taken by this door: its size, built and strength! Not sure what is inside actually. If I researched the guidebooks enough I am sure I could find out what it is.

HAH! I found a pasta vending machine. Can you beat that?!? You could have olio, carbonaro or just tomato sauce. Imaginative eh!

Shopping on the streets of Firenze ..... love the cobbled lanes and side streets. I could live there for sure!

That's the Ferragamo building. Yup, a whole building. Offices, boutique and the museum. Was very nice indeed!

A breath taking view of the city. There was so many angles to take from ....

I find the city very romantic. So between Paris and Firenze and Bologna? It is a hard choice. Oh ya ... and Besancon, another romantic city.

We only saw glimpses of two countries and already undecided or where we would consider staying. Yup, you read right. Consider staying. I love Europe ....Maybe I should not be too hasty in consider staying as we were only there for a 2 week holiday. I can see us there, that's all. And there is nothing wrong with a dream is there.

See how they keep trees from hundreds of years ago and not chop everything down. If we were in Malaysia the trees would be taken away to make way for what? More buildings which will be empty anyway.

And this is a jail. More than a hundred years old. It is still there and there is NO INTENTION of TAKING IT DOWN. IT IS A HISTORICAL SITE.

Ahhhh .... The Uffizi. Wait .... I will be back to visit you! All around the Uffizi there are vendors selling knick knacks and Florentine leather. The best quality and some of the designs are really fantastic. Wearing it no one would actually know what a bargain you got it for. Did I buy some? Need you ask!

I love the windows and doors in Europe. I think I took tonnes of pictures of these. Windows, doors, walls, bricks.

We took the hop on hop off bus and even then we didn't finish seeing the entire city. What a waste but seriously folks, we have to go there again. I feel there was not enough time on our hands and it does not help that places close early. Even if we start early in the day. If you want to take a walking tour you have to stay longer. At least a week.
My plans now is to find a way to go back there!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bologna, Italy

Our first stop in Italy was Bologna. Smack in the middle of Florence and Milan. The only reason we made Bologna on our list was because we were going to watch the SBK (Superbike) race in Imola that weekend. I am glad we made this a stop and spent 2 nights there. Bologna is a fantastic city. It is old and has many historical sights.

It is more of a university town and houses the oldest University in Europe. We didn't have time to sightsee in Bologna but driving around it was good enough. It has those typical cobbled streets which I love, small roads which makes driving a big car impossible.

There are not many cafes littered all over like in France or Florence but peace and tranquility you can easily find. It has its own international airport which means in future we can avoid the busy Rome airport.

Khadijah was probably wondering all the while where am I and what am I doing at this bike race. The noise for the lower cc race was bearable but I had to sit out the final race. Little did we know that the tickets we chose which was for a covered grandstand was the Ducati grandstand. Such high adrenaline rushing through me during the race. This is the first bike race I attended and definitely would love doing it again.

Bob said watching the race there was something to remember because for one the crowd was not rowdy and after the race there was no rush or traffic jam to go out like in Sepang. Despite the massive crowd and also one exit and one entrance, people were calm and walked out orderly. The weather did help of course.

In Bologna we stayed at a hotel I found through the internet. It was a little street but we were so glad to find that the room which we paid Euro85 for had a kitchenette and a washing machine! The room was spacious which gave me chance to repack and of course do laundry.
What I liked best about the hotel was the courtyard below us. We were on the first floor so opening the windows you can look down into a green courtyard. If you knew the neighbour there would be no problems talking to them across the window.

Sightseeing in Bologna meant churches and the possibility of seeing some early works of artists like MichaelAngelo. I enjoyed driving through the streets though and watching students mull about. There is a street for die hard shoppers and you can find brands like Gucci and Prada. So not such a small city after all.

The other reason we were in Bologna was because of the Ducati factory. Bologna was the home of Ducati and Modena the home for Ferrari which was about 30mins away. We went there too. Worth the trip of course. Bob enjoyed it and so did I actually.
After Bologna we made our way to Florence. Ahhhh .... another beautiful city of course. Tne museums, the small and cobbled streets and walkways. Getting lost in Florence was just as nice as getting lost in Paris.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

France At its Best

When we first decided to holiday in Europe we wanted to do four countries: France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. But it was impossible to drive around these four countries in two weeks. We wanted to enjoy the sights and sounds as much as we could so in the end we brought it down to France and Italy.

Am glad we did that and even then, we didn't have the time to see the whole country. We had to map our route carefully and highlight what we wanted to see the most. We arrived in Paris and spent four glorious days which of course was not enough. That gives us a reason to go back.

We made our way to Besancon from Paris, drove into Geneva for dinner and stayed in Anncey, a small little town almost South of France. We then went to Marseilles, Monaco, into Italy -- Bologna, Florence and off to Rome. We didn't even go into the city of Rome as we spent an extra night in Florence. Another reason to go to Rome in future.

Many of my friends are asking me which destination I lke best and its a tough one to answer. I like them all. But I think France most of all. This picture above is of Monaco from a Menton town, the last town in France before crossing the border to Italy. Am glad ir was a clear day when we were there so we managed to get some nice shots.

The main reason we wanted to see Monaco, besides it being scenic and all, was of course because of F1. To see the city of Monte Carlo, its loops, winds and bends, really makes you take your hat off to those F1 drivers because it is a challenge indeed to do those roads.

This is part of the F1 race track. Bob wanted to get a shot of that famous tunnel but it is impossible to stop and take a shot there when the roads are not closed cause it is busy.

The marina itself is littered with yatchs of all sizes. Just so happens that when we were there, there was a Yatch Show going on. There was a lot for us to google and oogle at when we were there. Just the day before when we were in St Tropez we were imagining owning a yatch and parking at the prestigious bay. Now in Monaco, we relive the dream again but added living in Monaco to the list!

France is really pretty in Autumn and by far my favourite season. The houses and buildings look extra nice and the cool crisp air makes walking a breeze. Don't ask me to walk that some mileage here in Malaysia though, as it is just too unbearable to go outside. Living in a four season country would not be so bad now eh ...

Many people also asked what it was like travelling with a baby and my answer is simple, babies are the easiest to travel with, especiaqlly breastfeeding babies. As long as they have their mom nothing else matters. But honestly, she was easy to travel with and did not give us a hard time. Also bringing a baby makes it possible for us to leave the hotel in the morning and don't come back till late at night.
Driving into Monaco from Nice there us just so many tunnels. Even after you cross Italy to go to Genova there are just tunnels. I started counting them but gave up halfway. Just too many lah. But all along you could still see that scenic coast. We drove off the highway at some point to take a shot of the beach and France on the other end. Just beautiful!

No matter which part of the beach we stopped at you could get this kinda view with building or houses peeping out through the hills. I wonder if they have to an EIA before they build but then again not being in the tropics would make it different. I doubt they have landslide problems from what I could see and their cities are old, much much older than ours. Goes to show that even hundreds of years ago they have thought out well and good how to build their city as well as plan for future developments. Such forsight. Monaco also has public lifts due to its heights and bearing in mind the elderly and also folk who just don't see themselves going up steep hills.

As we were walking around the Monte Carlo bay as well as other stops like St Maxime and Cavalier along the coast, I found myself asking would it be better to own a yatch or a private jet. hmmmmmmm .....
Gorgeous view isn't it?!?

Now that I am back I can't help but miss all those gorgeous pastries, croissants and desserts. The fruit tarts had such fresh fruits on them, the hot chocolate that was just sinful. Ahhhh ...... In Italy the pastries were not so good but I dit get to eat my fair share of cannolas (sorry I forgot to take pictures of these) and regret not eating more! I don't know where to find them here and the closest I have seen is Nigella showing you how to make them. Oh ya ... Italians love Nutella and I even tried Nutella gelato. Memang sedap!

Most patisseries in South of France and Italy are big into meringues. They come in really huge sizes and variations. Dipped in chocolate, in berry sauces and comes with fillings or fruits. Of course I didn't have the chance to try any. Where lah to put everything. If I was a bottomless pit would be different

This is a picture of ... guess? Venice? Hahaha ... looks like it but it isn't. This is Annecy where we stopped for a night after dinner in Geneva. We wanted to stay along this canal but the hotels located there were full. It is a very romantic little town, and cost of living much cheaper too, with its cobbled streets, quaint shops, little streets and canals everywhere. Believe it or not a small town like this has some 2 million tourists a year!

There were a lot of elderly folk walking around. Safe to assume that the younger generation would prefer thebig bright lights of more fast paced cities like Paris or Marseilles. Along the drive through France, through the countryside to be specific, we noticed that the little towns were almost like ghost towns. Not a soul walking around and no children either playing in the streets or the fields. When I asked Wani, Bob's cousin in bBesancon, she said most people in France keep country homes and worked in the city. Ahhhhhh ....

There are more stories to tell. Will unwrap them slowly. Are we planning our next trip? Yes. of course. So much more of Europe we have not seen. Do we have the time to do it all. God willing ....

Morocco in Paris

We had four nights in Paris and initially we thought it may have been too much time to spend in one place but you know what? It was not enough! There were so many things we could not do due to lack of time.

Opening hours of attractions and outlets are usually from 10am to 7pm. This may seem long but it really isn't. Especially when you want to take in everything. What more with long waiting lines to enter the Lourve or Notre Dame. We had to be very selective in where we entered but at least we got to see everything even if it was from the outside.

We found the Mosque de Paris, a Moroccon styled mosque. The design is simple and basic but the architectural design and details is what makes it unique. It is hardly used during the day and we spent a good hour there taking in the details and enjoying the peace.

It didn't feel like being in a mosque, felt more like being in a garden with all the greenery surrounding us. Malaysia should design mosques like this, better than hard concrete. Try and see how everything is in symmetry too.
This is the front of the mosque. We took the Metro from the hotel to get here but got out at the wrong side of the street. We also missed it but luckily saw the minaret peeping from between the buildings as we walked the streets. This is located in the Latin Quarters which is known for being a student area with cheap bookstores and bargain buys.

I loved the tiles in the mosque. Wonder if its too late to design a mural like this in our house ....

Almost every corner of the mosque was a good pictorial. The greens really make a difference. Despite the chill in the air, the garden atmosphere adds to the tranquility of the mosque.

If you look beyond, you can see door after door after door. Really breath taking! Of course by the time we finished walking through the mosque we were starving and it was almost 1pm. Since we were in a mosque, we were sure we could easily find halal food. We asked and were told to go around the corner behind the mosque and behold, we found a Moroccon restaurant. There was no English menu so we ordered as best we could with our minimal understanding and ability to read French.

The restaurant itseld is a tourist attraction. I assume it is as old as the mosque. It was huge and had room after room for dining. It looked small from the outside therefore we were pleasantly surprised to see all the space. The picture below is the ceiling of the restaurant.

When our order arrived, we enjoyed couscous, lamb, grilled chicken, eaten with some vegetable soup. There was also bread to dip it with. SEDAP. By far it was our best meal yet in Paris.

The restaurant looked like cafe from the outside with many people enjoying the cool air, a cup of coffee and smokes.

A really nice find for us in Paris. A place I would recommend to all to eat and visit.