P.S. May add little bit more sugar if you prefer muffin sweet.
While categorizing our old travelogs I found there was no post on Belgium which values a lot for me. As I go down the memory lane......year 2003, within 2 ½ months of marriage we have to move to Paris from US which was a big change for me. Apart from the cultural shock, language was immense barrier for day today life as well to mingle up with people around. Not only that, in Indian arrange marriage, it takes time to understand each other with each one's weaknesses and failings. So, quite an adjustment in every way. Somehow, in milieu of all this I lost embedded stone from my wedding ring given from Santanu’s family. Because of which I couldn’t wear for long. And everyone use to consider me Mademoiselle even in presence of Santanu (thinking him to be mon ami) which I use to enjoy a lot.
Well, it triggered Santanu and he asked me to wear something in replacement but since I didn’t had any extra ornament with me that time I couldn’t. So, I asked him casually one day why don’t you gift me one diamond ring which he accepted easily. Very surprising to me in contrary to other married people (men) but I never took that very seriously. And it never came in our conversation. But somehow it got rooted in his sweet heart.
In our very first trip to Amsterdam he came up with this topic on diamond ring seeing diamond shops around but somehow we could not make-up our mind. And it became like “raat gayi baat gayi”.
Then one fine morning while checking the accounts I found that some money has been withdrawn for buying rail ticket – bit surprising which I was never told. I gave call to Santanu to figure out for which he hesitated at first. On repenting said “a wife should not be told about bank account no.” and said it was surprise to you for your b’day – a trip to Belgium.
And at same evening after returning from his office he said to do research on Antwerp – for diamond. My GOD I was really taken a back for a minute that he took things so seriously. Thus, we planned for one night, two day stay at Belgium.
Train ticket was too cheap; we left early morning train by Thalys - bullet train and on reaching Brussels checked-in our pre-booked hotel. And immediately after break-fast left for Antwerp which is a hour ride by train. Antwerp’s diamond district is close to the Central Station. It’s said that Antwerp is famous for trading, cutting and polishing diamonds. We strolled from store to store then finally decided to buy one.
Then we walked towards down-town which was quite animated considered as heart of city. Grote Markt is beautifully surrounded by the Town Hall and decorative guild houses dating from the 16th and 17th century. In the middle of the 'Grote Markt' stands the Brabo fountain. One of the most pleasant squares in the city as traffic has been banned in this part. Being small place nothing much to explore. So, by evening we returned to Brussels.
On reaching Brussels, we walked towards magnificent central square, Grand Palace which boasts the country's finest baroque guildhalls, popular pavement cafes and intimate restaurants. Hidden at the core of the old town, it's only revealed as you enter the narrow side alleys surrounding the square. Had dinner in near-by Indian restaurant where food was too blend to make locals happy.
Next day, we were ready to explore Brussels. So first went to Atomium which represents molecules with 9 atoms. This huge 9 balls are interconnected with escalators.
TIP: Worth only if you want a panoramic view of Brussels.
Close to it is Mini Europe with models of main highlights of all European countries like Eiffel tower, acropolis etc which we skipped as we already had a plan to explore other European countries during our stay at Paris.
From here we went to Comic Strip Art museum which houses famous Tintin and Smurfs where we spent quite a time as Santanu being one of the admirer of Tintin. Then we went towards Galeries St Hubert lined with cafes, theatres and luxury stores. It has gorgeous glass roofed arcade worth to see if only this is the first place of trip in Europe. Then we walked towards little boy peeing “Manneken Pis" - one of the Brussels landmark with different stories behind it. It seems it has around 800 costumes displayed at Brussels museum. Town hall (hotel de ville) was our next spot with needle-like crooked spire close to Grand place which is very vibrant.
TIP: If you intend to do any other shopping remember Brussels is known for lace boutiques and chocolates.
For us enough of shopping…now time to pack up. I wish there was some way to show my gratitude to my beloved hubby for this trip and expensive gift on PERFECT event which I cherish even after 4 years.
From this Monday I moved to a corner desk as I put a new pair of shoes at work. The desk is nice but I lost my view from the window. Well, this post is not about my office and work.
Our boss is sailing Far-East and we had a dinner at Marine Plaza Hotel honoring him. The location of the hotel is great and as we were a big group we got a hall to ourself facing Black Bay and Marine-Drive of Mumbai. This windswept promenade is the crown of Mumai’s attraction. If you are in Mumbai try this location for an evening dinner - lots of high end hotel to choose from.
The food was good but not an excellent one; it was a buffet - with many verities of salads, soups and Indian snacks. I hardly had any place for main course after all those but I saved enough for dessert. There were around 10 types of them; and you can see I have taken almost all of them in my plate. I do not recollect any of those fancy names. Chef’s delight was the ultimate one. I was bit skeptical when taking the big white dessert, it had a layer of chocolate in the middle to make it yummier.
Keeping my palm starched and flat on the key-board I confess I have sweet teeth. No big secret, I love [desire will be a better one to express my feeling for them] desserts particularly chocolates. I love dark chocolate but I just can not have enough of them at one go. Unfortunately, I am not getting my daily dose of chocolate as I used to have after dinner in Paris. In Paris, you even get 100% chocolate which comes with warning on the wrapper that you might find taste too strong. Chocolates of main-land Europe particularly from France, Switzerland, and Belgium are the best. Only chocolate I know and like from Italy is Ferro Rocher – well enough of chocolates for this post …but never enough for my tongue.
It’s too hot and humid with power failure I was sweating like a hell. Though just few minutes before I took my shower. Having my last portion of lunch I was searching desperately for something in my fridge but actually I forgot to buy one. My all time favourite item which I can even take truckload if needed in any form. It is generally considered to cool the body in tropical climates.
I don’t know how and when exactly I developed taste for it. One of my favourite childhood food item was a heaping spoonful of it. I’d lick it like a lollipop until all traces of thick delectable were gone. As I got older, I use to mix it with portion of vegetable curry(s) as well lentils given to me beside the last course. Now also I regularly indulge and make sure to have it at last after two main meals. Without that it’s something incomplete for me. I hope you guessed it by now… yes, I am talking about yogurt known for its characteristic taste and consistency.
Being born and brought up in cosmopolitan town had known taste of India from my childhood. Due to the employment opportunities created by the Bhilai Steel Plant, people from all over the country flock here and the culture here provides a scintillating example of "Unity in Diversity".
We had a south Indian neighbour when I was a child. I used to love auntie’s food over my mom despite she tried her best to make best food which I never appreciated. Like the proverb says “ghar ki murgi daal barabar” (Self possessions are always undermined and other's possessions seem better). The memory still brings forth strong emotions when I think of it. I have one memory of eating this dish called Curd-rice as a small kid which Auntie used to prepare by mixing curd and rice with pinch of salt to taste if yogurt is bit tangy. For them it is common practice to finish any meal with curd rice. While our other neighbour was from North, so often used to have Raita - a special preparation with yogurt; normally served chilled. Though there are lot of variation in raita of which boondi is most common. Vegetable Raita involves adding grated cucumber and mint paste or using tomato, cucumber and onion raitas or diced carrots. Sometimes tempering it with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, channa & urad daal with pinch of asafoetida. Actually, Raita is good foil for spicy North Indian dishes like parathas, tandoori chicken, etc.
Now being born in bongo family we have Misti doi a thick sweetened yogurt which taste as sweet as pudding which is served and sold in earthern pot. Presently staying in western part, Shrikhand is taken in form of dessert made from strained curd. A soft muslin cloth is tied up and hung to drain all the water for a few hours from the curd. Sugar, salt, saffron, cardamom, diced fruit, raisins, and nuts are then added for its taste.
Apart from all these, curd is widely prepared at home where it has an important place in traditional cuisine. It can be made from a small amount of store-bought, plain, freshly cultured yogurt by adding lukewarm milk thoroughly. The quality of curd depends on the starter used. The time taken to curdle varies with the seasons taking less than 3 hours in hot weather and up to 10 hours in cold weather.
During our stay at Europe I use to wonder seeing one complete row on umpteen varieties of yogurt from fat-free to bio-organic in super-store. Not only natural and unflavoured yogurt but also yogurt with fruit, vanilla, chocolate and various other flavours are common. To offset its natural sourness, yogurt is often sold sweetened, flavoured, or in containers with fruit or fruit jam on the bottom. And when ever we travelled different parts of Europe we found different texture and taste for the same. It tastes completely different just across the border; in 2003 European Union debated to give a standardized name to yoghurt, but later abandoned that project.
Well well, wherever you go you will find curd; may be of different version in terms of taste and characteristics. So, while I have my daily dose of friendly bacteria you can certainly think on whether its worth to have or not.
As we couldn’t enjoy much earlier day we decided to opt for rented bike and move around in our own pace. Rented a bike for 2 days for 400 Rupees. One thing which is very interesting about Goa’s motorcycle taxi locally known as pilots ideal for nipping between beaches or for short distances. Bonafide operators ride black bikes with yellow mudguards and white number plate. These vehicles transport a single pillion rider. (Photo credit: from GoaBlog.org)
As usual after breakfast we headed towards Anjuna beach. Anjuna is gorgeous with its rocky shore and mighty cliffs where you can hear of techno-thumping sounds and see hippies around. With morning sun and plenty of time at hand we made this special sign to remember Goa. Vagator, however, is the perfect hideaway spot with its few beach shacks and fishing boats off in the distance. Black lava rocks, the coconut palms, the lush green landscape, nature playing its own music, and the sea turning from aquamarine to emerald green with Chapora Fort at its background. The reminiscence of the old Portuguese times giving a splendid view of the sea and hills covered with coconut trees and rice fields. To reach middle and little Vagator one needs to walk but the calmness worth the effort as big Vagator gets bus loads of Indian whiskey drinking male tourist.
At noon, sun is really hard to tolerate but for lunch, we made sure to have exotic flavour of the Goan dishes at whatever cost. So, we searched hard to find one place called “Gabriel” recommended by our guidebook as an authentic goan cooking. It was really worth searching.
For most Goans three basic necessities – fish, curry and rice. Goan values their food as much as they do their daily siesta. In their daily meal, seafood always has a pride of place in some or other form. From fried fish to exotic concoctions; sea food is usually a must on the menu, except for the occasional break for some religious observance. Besides fresh seafood, dried and salted fish dishes are also highly prized by Goans.
We ordered Galinha com Coentro (chicken with fresh coriander leaves and vinegar) and prawn curry with rice. It was really fresh, home –made and scrumptious. Owner was friendly; had chit-chat with him. We figured out it was guest-house cum restaurant with lots of shady trees around and not far from sea. Sitting arrangement is in the garden under trees with fan. Since it was shady we spent 2 hours there and at last we were offered yummy chocolate (European one after a long time).
In the evening we prepared ourselves for soaking at Baga beach; smeared well with body-oil. As on day two we found that sand was very fine and it gets stick to the body like glue even after proper shower. So, smearing oneself helps as sand can’t stick to the body and washes off with each roaring waves.
At evening we went to Tibetian market right across our resort where Santanu bought one finger-ring for himself and then headed for dinner at Baga-Calangute road to one nice restaurant. Wanted to taste one goan dessert for last 3 days; since we were not left with an inch place in stomach we could not but today made sure to eat less so that we can taste it. For dessert best is “Infantaria Pastelaria” recommended again by our guidebook which was again right across our resort where we bought Bebinca – a layered pudding.
Another view of Mumbai's Ballard Pier from my desk. May be I am too busy between meetings so no time to romance with my valentine. Well, heart shape balloons floating around our office here and there reminding me of the special day. Due to meetings and tight schedule I even missed the chocolate distribution. C'est dommage!!! :( . Although enormous work-pressure but many thoughts are coming across to make evening better. Let's see if it works or not.
During my stay at Paris for last 3 and half years, most of my lunch at work was at shared corporate cafeteria between three companies. I appreciated the price, quality of that food always particularly the desserts and varieties of yogurts available there. May be I understand, why French cuisine is considered to be world’s most refined cuisine. Unfortunately, I am not a food critic that I can pen down those exotic tastes to get water in your mouth. But as I think about them I roll my tongue ;)
In general, breakfast in France is a small affair consisting of croissants & bread rolls with some butter and jam to spread which is usually accompanied by milky coffee or hot chocolate or café noir. Since there is no set time for breakfast in France it makes them bit hungry by noon :) . Le déjeuner (lunch) was once a two hour mid-day meal but has recently seen a trend toward the one hour lunch break.
It is common at corporate world to be given lunch vouchers as part of their employee benefits. These can be used in most restaurants, supermarkets and traiteurs; however people having lunch in this way typically do not eat all three dishes of a traditional lunch due to price and time considerations. A sandwich followed by a dessert is quite commonly seen and can be found ready-made at bakeries and supermarkets, cafes, bistros or restaurants. Even many restaurants, offer a lower priced prix fixe menu at lunch which is not available in the evening.
I have been a silent participator for most of the times as I use to feel shy to communicate with my linguistic skill of French. These three pictures are the only I have from all those lunch time I had with my colleagues. These were taken at very end of our stay with Pamela’s new phone camera. I always felt that I was going to miss those lunch hours if I move out of Paris; now I write about them before they become distant memory.
At my current location in Bombay we do not have any in-house cafeteria at our office (a small office compared to Paris). There are plenty of restaurants around to choose from or I can order for lunch at my desk. With the last one you can work as you take a bite. I am sure any health freak will tell that it is not good for soul and body. Food is supposed to be taken properly so that you chew and eat in peace while a meal in France is not simply a moment dedicated to the nourishment of the body; it is indeed a time for social and even spiritual replenishment.
In Modern India, where average work hours are getting longer and people are slogging more at work. This may be very disturbing social and physiological changes and might have adverse effect as the dynamic working population grow older.
A charlotte is any dessert that's moulded into a container lined with sponge fingers or boudoir biscuits (purchased at a bakery or supermarket). It’s normally easy to prepare; hardly takes 15 min.
Make the syrup by mixing equal amount of sugar and water flavour it with adding same amount of rum or brandy to taste.
First line the bottom as well as sides of a container with clean wrap & then with sponge fingers soaked in sugary alcoholic syrup. Now layer it alternatively with chocolate mousse and sponge fingers in a way that top layer should be covered with sponge fingers. Then cover with clean wrap tightly and lid. Leave it to chill for more then 12 hours.
To serve, invert dish onto serving plate and unmold charlotte. Carefully remove plastic wrap. (Variation can be done using vanilla mousse & chocolate mousse alternatively). While serving dust with icing sugar and decorate with fruits or with cold custard or whipped cream.
We were just back from Switzerland and went for picnic at St.-Germain-en-Laye with few colleagues of Santanu. And Santanu promised he is going to prepare all by himself -simple vegetable-rice and Date walnut brownies.
Lately I borrowed one book on vegetarian by Nicolas Graimes from one friend which includes light meals, main courses, tarts, salads, desserts etc. The best part of this book is initial descriptions on each ingredients starting from seeds, vegetables, different types of cooking oil and what not with colourful pictures. We see certain things in the local market but do not how to prepare them. Neither we know the corresponding English names nor are they commonly available in India. So, its an excellent book for reference.
Even his friends from RFS wanted to have the recipe. These rich brownies are great for afternoon tea and even they do make a fantastic dessert when served with crème fraiche (whipped crème) or vanilla ice-cream. I will be infringing copyright if I copy those here but still couldn’t refrain myself.
- Eiffel Tower
- Sacre Coeur
- Arc de Triomphe
- Champs Eleysees - and Concorde
- Notre Dame and Saint Chapel - If possible a cup of coffee on the top roof of Samaretine (now closed till 2012) to have the best view of Paris Center. But you can try Institute de Monde Arabe .
- La Defense - Paris version of New York Manhatten.
- The Mega Stores - Galeries Lafayette and Printemps
- Boat Ride. This gives the best magnificent view of Paris architectures
- Bastille - Best hang out place lots of bars and food place a happening place
- Moulin Rouge or Lido [Both French Cabarets] your choice ;)
- Tower Montparnasse
- Louvre - home of Monalisa
- Orsay - best place to go if you like impressionism artists like Monet/Gaugh etc.
- Rodin - Sculpture
- Picasso - the name say it all
- Be aware of pickpockets and small thefts.
- Paris is a small City it is only 15KM by 10KM.
- Ask for a metro Map when you get here.
- It involves a lot of walking so get yourself a good pair of walking shoes.
- There are not many public toilets and you need to carry change [coins] to use them.
- Get yourself a phone card from "TABAC" [where you buy cigarettes] for calling inside and outside France. There are special cards for India or US if you need any.
- Metro tickets you can buy the 10 tickets "carnet" or day pass depending upon your travel plan. You can use the same on any other public transport as long as you with in Paris.
- Each Street corner will have road names and tells you which arrondisement you are in.
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