Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy 6th Anniversary, Joe!


Joe dearest,
Can't believe it has been 6 years for both of us as husband and wife,
We've been through ups and downs of the emotional roller coaster,
But never have I any regret of saying yes to your proposal...
I know we have a long way to go,
We have so many dreams to realise,
But I know we'll hold each other's hands tight in paving the way,
And I can never imagine doing it with anyone else,
Coz never can I imagine life without you...
Joe dearest, I love you with all my might,
Thanks for being the ONE for me,
Thanks for all the wonderful moments together,
Thanks for being a GREAT you,
Love you, Love you, Love you!


P/S: Thanks for the anniversary trip! It's sure a great anniversary gift! Hehehehe...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Own Little Laduree?


It's really hard to find good quality gourmet pastries in town. You can find people selling gourmet chocolates all right, in fact they're mushrooming and you can find the outlets in various high-end malls. I remember I was craving for macaroons the other day and the ones I found sold in a bakery tasted like chewing gum! To make up for it, Hubby dearest took me to Mandarin Oriental and there I went gorging on the macaroons like there was no tomorrow. It was pretty close to the ones sold in Paris, but still not quite there, you know what I mean.

I am a dessert person. Apart from eating them, I love experimenting dessert recipes. I am constantly looking out for unique and different dessert recipes by top chefs and try to turn them into mine with my own improvisation and techniques :) Plus, you know how these kinda desserts are always soaked with alcohol rite? So, changing them into halal desserts remain as challenges as alcohol is always the main ingredient..I also love serving family and friends with my "experiments" and it never fails to delight me when I get good reviews and praises :)

Wonder what it would be like to have my own little gourmet pastry shop like Laduree (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm). Fancy-schmancy huh?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Drool.....

I've got a fair bit of travelling to do come next year and I am adding this into my wishlist :) Drool....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Should I Be Nice? Nahhhh....


Scene : Mum's Raya Open House


Elderly lady : "Mana anak kau?"
Me : "Belum ada lagi."
Elderly lady : "Lambatnya kau ni. Adik kau dah dua tu anak dia!"
Me (thinking that I should tell this lady off) : "Tanyalah Allah, auntie. What are His plans for me. I'm sure He knows what's best for me.."
Elderly lady : ....... (Only smiled like kerang busuk)

I don't think I wanna be nice anymore to those who just love to give their unwelcomed comments on my situation..I think I should play "psychology" with them..The feeling after telling these people off? Priceless...Hahaha (evil laugh)..
p/s: Pic from zentoad.com. Why frog? It's one of my fave animals ;)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Losing My Virginity

Realised that I haven't been reading nowadays. I mean, apart from the strategic and management documents I go through each day at work, I have not been reading..ehmm, leisurely. So, made a point to drop by the book store quite recently. Oh my, there are just too many new books, especially on my favourite chic lit and thriller fiction shelves! While I was skimming through Sophie Kinsella's Twenties Girl, The Time Traveller's Wife, John Grisham's Associate, Sidney Sheldon's Mistress of The Game etc, my gaze fell upon the non-fiction shelf and saw one attention-grabbing autobiography of the famous adventurous English industrialist, Richard Branson. Titled Losing My Virginity, it speaks of how it all started for him. He's definitely a born entreprenuer, risk taker and surprisingly a family man. It is very interesting reading about how his parents supported him in everything he does and what more interesting is both parents especially the mother herself is someone adventurous too! Guess it runs in the blood for Richard. Overall the book is a very interesting read. It's like reading a novel but encapsulates a lot of business values and lessons. I find it candid and spontaneous too. Richard's sense of humour is wonderful too. I found myself giggling and laughing hysterically at times. Nevertheless, the book is inspiring!



Saturday, August 29, 2009

Burberry Beautiful

When Emma Watson became the face of Burberry for the 2009 Fall-Winter ad campaign, I started paying more attention to the brand. The handbags she is seen with in most of the ads are certainly not the ones with the classic tartan patterns which I used to find boring. Having browsed Burberry's website and 'ooh'ed and 'aah'ed over the many, many new designs, I am now a self-confessed new fan of the brand. Particularly love this Prorsum bag she’s holding in the photo below (pic from Burberry). Definitely something I’m going to check out for myself! Mental note : To put aside enuff dough for the trip to the Burberry flagship store on New Bond Street next year :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Spiritual Journey

This is a seriously long overdue entry:
I’ve never felt such peace
I’ve never felt so close to God
I never knew I could miss the Prophet so much
Until I stepped onto the Holy Lands

Hubby and I considered our Europe trip last December as the ULTIMATE holiday ever since we got married. Yeah, it was the furthest destination we’ve ever been to together. Well, we felt really good having had the chance to see all the nice places, absorbed the different culture, shopped for loads of designer goods and snapped like over 2000 pictures! But the excitement ended right upon returning home, upon stepping onto the Malaysian soil. No, wait! The excitement ended once we’ve distributed souvenirs to families and friends and saw their delighted faces upon receiving the gifts and after showing the ‘Photobook’ I created for the pics we took. Luckily we used mostly cash for the trip, if not the excitement will surely be short-lived if we had to pay off our credit cards kan?

A few weeks later after the trip, I casually threw the idea of going for Umrah to Hubby and he agreed. But it wasn’t anything concrete because he said,” We’ll go one fine day”. Well, one fine day can be any day kan? And me, being a consultant, one setback of being one is that I can never properly plan my holidays because consultants’ schedules are always ad-hoc, it all depends on when certain projects are secured and when they should start. And trust me, it can be anytime!

Anyway, I told Mum and Dad of our intention. And the people that I planned to go with were certainly them as I would describe the Holy Lands as their second homes, looking at how frequent they go there. They have been visiting these lands every 2 years and lately, it has been something like an annual thing for them. In March this year, Mum came back with a quotation from the travel agent, and Hubby and I were lucky that we could go missing from work for the 2 weeks of the intended dates in the itinerary.

Well, the summary :

Madinah
Transportation :
We flew direct to Madinah from KL via Saudi Arabian Airlines. Journey took around 9 hours with a 30 min transit in Riyadh. Immigration in Madinah was pretty all right. We arrived around 8pm their time, so some of the counters were closed and the queues were quite long. Other than that, no questions asked. But we noticed that some men were taken their photos and some were even taken their thumbprints. Guess they have their own ala-terrorists database kot!


Hotel :
Dallah Taibah. A 4-star hotel. We were given a suite with 3 rooms and each room were filled with 3 twin beds. Orang Arab kan besar-besar. The hotel was recently furbished and everything looked new. The hotel is located right in front of the mosque specifically the Bab Nisak i.e. the main doors to the Ladies Entrance.



Do:
Tours, like most of other Umrah pilgrimages, trips should be already organised by your travel agents. The trips are normally called ‘Ziarah’ and they are categorised into 2 namely Ziarah Dalam and Ziarah Luar. Ziarah Dalam means visit within the Mosque while Ziarah Luar means visit to Masjid Quba’, Jabal Uhud, Masjid Qiblatain, Masjid Tujuh, Dates Farm, Dates Market. Some tips, take your ablution before heading to Masjid Quba, buy your dates at Dates Market as they are cheaper compared to Dates Farm (like 50% cheaper). For souvenirs shopping like abayas and scarves, Madinah offers better quality ones. Shopping can be done around the hotels as there are plenty of shops around the mosque and hotel areas. My personal favourite place is Ben Dawood. I went crazy buying chocolates, fruit juices and cheese there. Those chocolates that you can’t possibly find here, you can definitely find them there. Ben Dawood is basically a better version of Cold Storage/Village Grocer /Mercato.


Eat:
Food is provided at the hotel as this is already included in the package. But I did go try some falafel, shawarma, kebab, Arab version of roti canai and Kudu, their ala McDonald’s for their cheese nachos. Sedap!

Makkah
Transportation :
We flew to Jeddah from Madinah via Saudi Arabian Airlines. Journey took 30 minutes. From Jeddah we were fetched by the travel agent to Makkah. Since there were only 6 of us, we went on a van. Journey from Jeddah to Makkah is around 1 hour. Told Hubby, would prefer to fly from Madinah to Jeddah the next time too Insya Allah. It’s so convenient.

Hotel :
Zam Zam Grand Suites – True to its name, this 5-star hotel definitely reflects grandeur. Once you enter, it’s as if you enter some Arabian Nite setting. Very rich and elaborate. You can see that those staying there are those rich Sheikhs. The hotel is above a 5-storey shopping mall ala our Pavilion here. So, everytime we need to go to the mosque we definitely need to go down to the mall. The entrance to the mosque from the hotel faces the Door No. 1 i.e. King Aziz door. It’s just 10 meter away from the door and if you’re given a room with the mosque view, depending on which floor you’re on, you can definitely see the whole mosque including the Kaabah. The Azan’s from the mosque is piped-in into the room where you can hear the Azan every time. On Fridays you can even hear the Friday sermon right from your room. As for TV, there’s IPTV for you. My favourite channel is Huda TV. If the local networks here can think of a contemporary way to spread Islam to the young ones, Huda TV is a good reference point for them! Hey, Astro Oasis and TV9, check out Huda TV!


Do:
When you're in Makkah, the thing that you wanna do most is of course, perform the Umrah itself. The tawaf, the saie, the prayers. I felt so connected to God while performing Umrah. We had our talks all the time I was there. It was as if I had nothing else to think about other than Allah when I was there. It was as if I was in a care-free world! Oh, how I miss being in that world again!

Apart from Umrah, you'll be brought to the historic sites including Arafah, Gua Hira and many others. And as what I do best i.e. shopping, it was really easy for me because there’s a souq below the hotel. I went pretty crazy shopping for cotton material and scarves. And I tell you, the material is beautiful and different from what you can get here..Enough said :)


Eat:
I walloped lamb Samosa and mango juice (specifically Caesar brand) almost on daily basis. Got the former from a kebab stall next to the hotel and the latter from Bin Dawood. Hehe..If it’s not for the Tawaf and Saie, I bet I could’ve piled on pounds and pounds of extra weight home!

Hmm..writing about this makes me miss the Holy Lands so much. Especially now, as the days are creeping into Ramadan month..It’s been 2 months since I got back but seriously looking forward to be 'Tetamu Allah' again. In the mean time, I aim to be a good wife, daughter, sister, friend, Muslimah, InsyaAllah…Happy Ramadhan everyone!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Screaming.....


Been in hiatus...
Blog is collecting cobwebs....
Will be back when I can find time for myself!
In the meantime, I'll try to manage my stress level...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Naked, No More

Found my ring! It was in my work handbag all this time! Took out keys from the bag today and guess what fell on the floor after that? My wedding ring! It feels good now that I have back something that has been part of me for more than 5 years. Yupp, I'm naked, no more ;)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Search of the Ring

Been searching high and low for my wedding ring. Decided to leave it behind while I was away for Umrah and can't seem to remember where did I put it. Hmmph..ring, ring, where are you? Come to mama! Feeling kinda naked without you now!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Messing with the Hormones


Up till 2 weeks ago, Auntie Flow has not visited even after 9 months post- surgery. When Mum knew about it, she said I could’ve delivered a baby already! Well, to be frank, I was not worried at all and I truly enjoyed the whole pain-free 9 months! (period-pain free). How could this happen you may ask? Well, right after the surgery I was put on a 6-month Lupron Depot treatment. Every month, for 6 months, I was given an injection of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). It’s a hormone that stimulates the ovaries to decline its production of estrogen. And with that, I reached the state of menopause after the surgery and was down with menopause-like side effects for 6 months.

I was prescribed with the hormone as advised by the gynae to cure my endometriosis and to certain extent, lower the probability of recurrence of the endometriosis, fibroid and cysts. Lupron immediately stopped the bleeding and whatever pains and cramps I was suffering with before. That was really cool, ay? The gynae told me that the benefits of the treatment could last me for 3-5 years. What?? Five years of pain-free period? SOLD! The idea of being pain-free delighted me and that was the exact selling point that made me agree to the gynae’s pitch. Well, there’s a BUT. The start of the injection means the onset of unbelievable hot flashes. Sometimes I would have to hold my breath because the heat fully surrounded me. To me, it’s truly a sneak peek to what’s menopause is all about! The gynae forewarned me of the side-effects such as hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations, headaches, nausea, fluid retention, joint pain, loss of sexual desire (really?), dizziness, nervousness, and breast changes (huh?- such as tenderness and pain). But Alhamdulillah, I suffered from only hot flashes.

Anyway, last 3 weeks, after almost 9 months of enjoying the pain-free state, I realised that my period has still not come. It’s roughly 3 months delayed bcoz I was told that I’ll be free from menopause after the end of the 6-month treatment. I wanted to just wait and enjoy the pain-free state but with my pending Umrah trip (yes, am visiting the Holy Lands in 2 weeks time) I wanted to be sure that Auntie Flow does not visit while I’m there because I plan to spend a lot of time talking to the Almighty in His and Prophet’s mosques. So, popped-in the gynae’s clinic last 3 weeks and she said that the time of Auntie Flow’s visit after Lupron treatment is varied between individuals but in ensuring that I’ll be period-free during the Umrah trip, she could prescribe me with some medication. After scanning my ovaries and saw that my womb is ready for menstrual flow, she gave me Duphaston to induce my period. Yes, there was a really bloody flow last 2 weeks and it was painful! Earlier, while expecting my period, I tried making mental notes to be prepared for the kinda pain I might face. But I kinda have forgotten how painful my period-pain was after 9 months. But when it finally came after a week being put on Duphaston, of dear, it all came back to me and the pain became so very familiar. Well, I was pretty disappointed because it wasn’t as pain-free as what it was supposed to be, but then again, that’s what I had to endure for messing with the cycle by inducing it, kan? Let’s hope the next ‘uninterrupted’ cycle will be painless. And when I saw the gynae again earlier last week, she gave me Norcolut to be taken in 2 weeks time for the 2 whole weeks of my Umrah trip. This is to delay my period for the upcoming cycle. According to her, right after I stop taking it, I should be getting my period again and the cycle will continue normally in the next one. And I’ll update you whether Lupron really works for me, ay?

Well, that’s the deal between me and my hormones. And the take-aways for you guys? Hmm..

1) Those trying to cure endometriosis, fibroid and the likes, you may check out Lupron Depot
2) Those planning to induce your period, find out about Duphaston
3) Those planning to delay your period, read about Norcolut

Happy Googling!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confessions of a Bagaholic

Yours truly is one happy bunny today. Thanks to my gal pal who just got back from States, I finally got hold of something that I’ve been drooling over for months! And now, with this purchase, I, a confessed bagaholic, pledge not to splurge on handbags for many, many months to come. Haha! And for now, I’ll be happy painting the town red with whatever I have ;)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Modestly stylish and beautiful

I came across this video on youtube when I was looking for inspiration for blouses designs. I would say that I am pretty much intrigued with this lovely fashion designer, Rabia Z from Dubai.

I read that she took a big risk when she had all her runway models fully covered during the Dubai's Fashion Week. But it all paid off when she bagged the Fashion Week’s “Emerging Talent Winner” award and subsequently became the winner of the British Council’s “Young Entrepreneur of the Gulf” award. In this video, she said, “I want to make modesty look beautiful and also show a more beautiful side of Islam in media…I want my designs to be a bridge between practicing Muslims and non-practicing. You don’t always have to show skin to look beautiful, you can look beautiful and remain covered at the same time.”

Having her designs exported to many countries now, Rabia has definitely merged modern fashion design and tradition. A designer definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

video

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An apple, a blue box and the Andaman

This is an overdue entry on our (Hubby and me) birthdays. Celebrated mine 2 months ago and Hubby’s was 2 weeks earlier. After spending quite some amount for our Europe trip, we made a pact to not give each other birthday gifts this year.

But me, being me, couldn’t resist surprising Hubby and ended up buying him an Ipod Touch. He’s been eyeing the PSP but I think Ipod Touch is nicer. Eventhough overall, the functions are more or less the same, but I think it’s nicer to browse the net using the Ipod Touch compared to the PSP. And hubby browses the net a lot! Plus, I think Ipod is a lot better looking! Bought it online and the process was seamless. What more when I could personalise the Ipod by engraving it! Hubby was pleasantly surprise when he got the gift and he now brings it everywhere.

And of course, he couldn’t resist surprising me either! Mestilah nak balas my jasa baik for getting him a gift jugak kan? Hehe..Well, he truly surprised me, you bet. On the eve of my birthday, when I was at mum’s place, he got everyone at home to lepak at the living room together. Then he brought a slice of cake and everyone started singing me birthday song. It was the oreo cheesecake that I absolutely love from Marmalade. I was delighted. And I was even more delighted when he handed me the signature blue box tied with the white ribbon! Seeing the box, without even having to open it, I started to jump up and down with joy! I already knew what was inside the box! Yupp, it was the Tiffany & Co’s bracelet I was salivating over in Paris! Yippee..He held the celebration early because the next day, on my birthday itself, he brought me for a one nite stay in Langkawi and we stayed at the Andaman. Gosh, the place was nice. It reminded me of our Tanjong Jara stay few years ago. The good thing was the place was not fully occupied and we had the pool, the coffee house, the gym to ourselves. It was even nicer when the manager brought in a birthday cake for me when he noticed upon checking in that it was my birthday that day. Hmm..it was indeed a nice birthday celebration this year. Seems like it gets better and better every year. Thanks Sayang! Love you!


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Eiffel, I'm in Love

Magnifique..that’s how I can sum up our trip to Paris in one word!

We didn’t know what to expect when we first stepped on the French soil. Being Asians, specifically Muslims, we were skeptical that we’d pass through the immigration smoothly. You know, with all the hoo haa's about terrorism and the likes being linked to our kinda people. Well, we were dead wrong, after our bon jour’s and merci’s, we passed immigration in a flash. Talk about being paranoid!

At the time of arrival at CDG airport, the temperature was 0° Celcius. Sampai2 aje, we were pretty much still in the state of disbelief that we had finally reached Europe especially after the last minute planning and all.

Transportation :

1) Emirates from KL to Paris via Dubai - total return trip inclusive of everything was RM4,400. Booked online a month before the trip.
2) Around Paris, we went around by the metro, one way trip to any chosen destination within Zones 1-3 at Euro 1.60 or a day pass at Euro 8. To travel out of Zone 3, we took RER (express regional train) on the day we went to La Merne Valle area (Zone 5).

Hotel :
On the day of arrival, we stayed at a 2 star hotel – Comfort Hotel, near the airport as we needed to leave for Venice early the next morning. We were worried that the hotel would be a dodgy place after reading reviews on various websites. But considering that it was gonna be a less than 24-hour stay and the hotel provided free airport shuttle, plus the rate per nite was only Euro 50, we decided to just stay there. Well, obviously we worried about nothing. The hotel was not bad after all. Yes, it was crammy, but it was clean. It kinda reminded me of my room in the student hall back in Uni days. The reception lady was nice, she greeted us well and gave us maps and directions to go around. The next morning, we left the hotel around 5am with the airport shuttle.

Upon returning to Paris from Italy, we stayed at the St Augustin Elysees Hotel. We came across the hotel in several boutique hotel websites. Yupp, I’m a sucker for boutique hotels. After much thought, we decided to book a room at the hotel for the location. Located in the centre of Paris - in the 9th arrondissement. The hotel was refurbished 2 years ago to mimic a more contemporary style. Like the hotel in Milan, I absolutely loved the lift deco. It’s white with red floral design. The hotel's also located in between 2 Metros which are 5 min walk away. It has a balcony overlooking a quiet Parisian street. We only went out once to take pics on the last day coz it was very cold! Brrrr…Breakfast was normal but the lady that served us, Renata, was very attentive. Desk personnel were all courteous. Who said Parisians are snobs?


Do:
1) Trip to Paris won’t be complete without visiting the hot tourist spots rite? We covered Paris mostly on foot and also via Metro rides. From one end to another end of the Siene River, we walked to Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Les Invalides, Arch De Triomphe, Sacre Couer etc. Most memorable day was when Hubby first set foot on Eiffel Tower. . We took the lift to the highest floor (Euro 12 per pax). It was pretty funny when he said “Lerr, besi macam ni aje rupanya”. Eventhough he said that, I could see that he was indeed amazed by one of the world’s famous landmarks, as he busied himself capturing images of every aspect of the tower with his camera, went to all souvenir shops within the tower to buy something memorable and even pulled me to one corner to give me a kiss and said “Lets cherish this romantic moment in this City of Love”. Romantic jugak laki aku ni! Well, what better place to French kiss if it’s not on top of the Eiffel Tower kan? Haha. We also discovered how big the Louvre was. Satu hari pun tak cukup. But was so glad when I could go to the frontline amidst the hundreds of people catching a glimpse of the original Mona Lisa. Apa lagi, snap! snap!

2) Disneyland & Disney Studio Park, Marne La Vallee- - It was Hubby’s first time in Disneyland. Throughout, he tried comparing the park with Movie World in Gold Coast. Euro Disney is a lot smaller compared to Movie World he said. Queues for rides were so long and we only went on a few. But I went crazy buying gifts for my 2 nieces who absolutely adore Disney princesses!
3) La Vallee Village Outlet – The outlet is situated 5 min train ride away from Disneyland. Not many shops compared to the ones in Italy but I ended up buying myself Porsche tees (Euro 19), Porsche cap for bro-in law (Euro 10), Hackett belt for baby bro (Euro 25), Armani tee for another bro (Euro 20) etc
4) Champs Elysees – The ultimate goal going to this avenue was to go to the Louis Vuitton flagship store to buy my mum the bag she wanted. We were personally assigned a sales assistant when we got in and he attended to us like real VIPs. We went to every floor and every corner of the store. I touched most bags and tried on so many accessories but only ended up with one Hampstead for mum (Euro 620). Was toying with the idea whether to get the Inclusion bracelet (Euro 190) but then decided not to in the end. Ended up with nothing for me from the store but the experience and feeling of having shopped there? Priceless!
5) There was another shop on Champs Elysees that I absolutely loved – Sephora. It’s a beauty and perfume shop originated from USA actually. They have all perfume, skincare and beauty products sold. Think of a brand and oui! you’ll find it there. I spent a long time here. Managed to get Sephora in house nature-based perfume for souvenirs @ Euro 2 each. Wonderful stuff – perfume from chocolate, papaya. Their in-house brand stuff are pretty similar to what Body Shop has, but better, I think. Every sales assistants and promoters in the shop dressed smartly in black and hot new songs were blasted from all corners. I could remember Britney’s Circus and Womanizer played everytime I entered any of the Sephora outlet in Paris.
6) Galleries La Fayette - I would personally say that this is the Harrods of Paris. I thought I would never buy anything here. But having still a lot of money in the pocket and we went there on our last day in Paris, plus they were having Christmas sale at that time, I ended up buying 2 Longchamps Le Pliage back packs at Euro 50 each for my sis and me, 1 Furla suede handbag (Euro 150), gourmet coffee powder at Euro 3 for 250g etc. The store was beautifully decorated and before leaving the place, I stopped at the Tiffany & Co store and salivated over the Return to Tiffany heart tag toggle sterling silver bracelet. Ooooh, cantiknya! The price tag was Euro 210 but thinking that I could get it bit cheaper in KL, I decided not to buy it..


Talking about these great places, Paris is not a place without an eyesore though. There were many Morrocans selling souvenirs and begging for money illegally at the tourist spots. And from my observation, every time they heard the police sirens they would pack their stuff and ran away as fast as they could. Paling sedih when I saw this one lady begged a Caucasian guy for money, but instead of money, the guy gave her his unfinished drink. The lady happily gulped the drink away! My, kesiannya!

Eat:
1) Abundance of good halal food in Paris tapi mostly Middle Eastern stuff lah. Kebabs, falafels, briyani etc. Even in the Louvre foodcourt, there were 2 halal food counters. Along Champs Elysees, pun ada banyak halal restaurants – Turkish, Lebanese, Syrian, Morrocan (they all tasted the same to me!) We searched for Burger King Muslim, a halal burger joint we read about before leaving KL, but to no avail. Rupa2nya it was somewhere in Zone 5 and not in the city actually! Kempunan!
2) Morrocan restaurant at the Grand Mosque in Paris. Slightly pricey but if you wish to dine in a Morrocan ambience, this is the place to go. Our dinner there costed us Euro 34.


3) We survived mostly on pastries and chocolates while we were there. Paris is an absolute heaven for pastries and chocolates. Yummy!


Paris? You get 5/5 from me! Everything negative we heard and read about Parisians were absolute myths to us. We love the place, love the people. I spoke a little French there and was very delighted when people could understand me. There was one time when I was queueing to get coffee, I told a French lady in the queue who was friendly enough to chat with me that I could only speak a little French but she pointed out that what I spoke was not little and my diction was good! Fantastique! Je suis heureux! Wouldn’t mind setting foot in Paris again for the third time ;) Perhaps, via Euro Star or Easy Jet from London next year, kan Hubby? ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Milan, the Fashion Capital

While waiting for the train to Milan, I gave Dad a call asking him where he ate when he was in Milan 2 years back. Hubby and me were dying for rice already after a week in Italy and I remember Dad did tell me before I departed that he had good briyani while in Milan. So, we made a mental note that our mission in Milan was to find a place selling briyani.

Transportation:
Again, took the train from Florence to Milan. Around Euro 40 per person. Milan Centrale – Milan’s train station was jam-packed when we arrived. It was certainly the busiest train station compared with the three cities’ stations we stopped at before.

Hotel:
Our hotel was just across the road from the station - Starhotel Anderson. This was the first chain hotel we stayed in and it was nice. What I liked most about the hotel was the look of the lobby. It was kinda contemporary fusion (is there such a term? Hehe) i.e. Modern plus classic! Not forgetting the lifts – dimly lit with Milan’s snapshots decorating the four walls of the lifts (The most romantic lift I encountered). Breakfast was complimentary and I loved the variety of Italian breads. Soft, fluffy and uniquely tasty and not forgetting the many types of cheese. Coffee? Marvellous! I’d normally end up with headaches if I took coffee, but in Italy, headaches were non-existent to me!!


Do:
1) San Siro Stadium – Went for a museum and studio tour (Euro 12 per person). Hubby was ecstatic and he ended up taking lotsa pics and videos. He even took pics of things sold in the souvenir shop. I enjoyed it too. Wished that I’d bumped into Beckham. Why you may ask? Simply because we were there on the day AC Milan was announcing that he’s joining their team. Managed to catch press setting up for the press conference to be held that evening. Beckham’s posters were everywhere. The stadium's pretty far from Milan town. We took the cab and it costed us around Euro 17. Bought T-shirts (from Euro 20) and key chains (from Euro 6) at the stadium store.
2) Galleria Vittorio Emanuele — The mother of all shopping malls in Milan. Upscale shops in a splendid 19th century palace of a mall. Prada originated from Milan and the very first Prada shop established is in this mall. Other shops include LV and many, many upscale cafes. Ended up buying 2 cds from the music store. Laura Pausini and Tiziano Ferro at Euro 20 each. Discovered them while watching MTV there. Mahal kan? (if convert lah) But after listening to them, they were worthy buys indeed.
3) The Duomo and surrounding area – Like Florence, the Duomo is one of the city’s heritage symbols. It’s surrounded by both historic and modern architecture. This is where you can do most of your shopping. There are all sorts of middle to high end retail outlets here. Ferrari, Zara, the big department store La Rinascente etc. The Duomo is around the corner to La Scala Theatre – one of the world’s famous opera theatres. Dunno whether it’s true, but a taxi driver told us that it’s difficult to get tickets to the shows there unless you’re a socialite. And bookings have to be made years in advance. Oh yeah, we were in Milan on the day Natalie Cole performed for a free open Christmas concert near Duomo. It was fabulous. An open concert under the stars and it so happened that day was our 5th wedding anniversary. I forced hubby to dance along under the stars with Natalie Cole in the background singing! Bila lagi kan? It’s Natalie Cole in person ok? Her finale was the evergreen Unforgettable. The crowd went wild when she sang the song..and so did I!
4) Foxtown Factory Outlet – This is situated in Mendrisio, a small town bordering Milan and the gate to Switzerland. We bought a return bus ticket from the local travel agent, costing Euro 12 per person. The journey to the outlet was around 30 mins. The scenery nearing Mendrisio was breathtaking as we could see Swiss Alps right in front of us. Foxtown is a huge shopping mall. Damage done to the pocket? Giorgio Armani sunnies @ Euro 40, Lacoste Tees @ Euro 30, Benetton Kids tees @ Euro 10, Armani caps @ Euro 15, Gucci sunnies @ Euro 60 etc.



Eat :
1) We found a Northern Indian food and had prawn briyani there. Rice never tasted so good. Hehe. The whole meal costed nearly Euro 50 for the both of us but then what the heck? Mengidam sangat!
2) Loads of gelato – we made a mental note to check our blood sugar level when we get home. With the abundance supply of authentic gelato around, it’s as if we were going on a ‘glucose diet’ there in Italy. Hehe.
3) McD (oh no, again?) – We opted for the different meals they offered. Spinach nuggets and prawn fritters. Yummy. Each meal at Euro 3. Wish they have them in Malaysia!

Leaving Milan, we took the airport shuttle from the terminal located across the road from our hotel (Euro 12 one way per person). We left Milan for Paris via Milan Malpensa Airport, located 45 minutes from Milan city. Our Easyjet flight took off from Terminal 2, so, a reminder to travellers who are planning to do your VAT claim, leave for airport early as the VAT Claim counter is in Terminal 1. These terminals are pretty far from one another. So, you need ample time to reach the airport, check in, claim your VAT and do you last minute shopping at the airport before boarding your plane. My personal rating for Milan? 3.5/5 :) Next destination? Bon jour Paris, here we come!

In search of David in Florence


They say a trip to Florence is not complete until one sets eyes on David, Michaelangelo's most famous sculpture. And yes, that was the one main reason why hubby and I made our way to the Tuscan land, after a fascinating Roman holiday.

Going there:
From Kuala Lumpur, we flew to Rome with MAS. Return ticket was less than RM3,500 each as we managed to secure a good deal from MAS website. One tip: Always be on the lookout for MAS deals, plan your journey and book your tickets well ahead. Sign up for MH Buddy or follow MAS on facebook and twitter to ensure you do not miss out any attractive travels deal. And yeah, do install MH mobile on your gadgets! With this, buying flight tickets can be made anywhere, anytime!

The journey to Florence from Rome was only 1.5 hours via train. We left Roma Termini Station with Euro Star train (Euro 42 per person) to Florence after a hearty breakfast. Comfortable journey throughout.

Stay:

The hotel was only 10 mins walk from the train station. We had to drag our luggage along but the walk to the hotel was all right as the walkway by the road was smooth (no, no potholes sighted!). The hotel we stayed at was Globus Hotel (Euro 70 per night). Upon arriving, the hotel manager, a lady by the name of Serena came down from the reception area on the 1st floor to the entrance on the ground floor and helped us with our luggage. There was no lift so imagine a lady carrying hubby's 16kg luggage up a flight of stairs to the 1st floor! Such a Wonder Woman! The reception area was nice and warm despite the cold weather outside. What made our day that day was the fact that they had a computer available for free internet use at the reception area. They also mentioned that wi-fi was free on our floor. True enough, there was a laptop in our room! Such great news for people like us who like to be connected all the time, especially a blogger like me. Another bonus was we had Sky TV too!


Breakfast at the hotel was good - loved the variety of pastries, fresh fruits and the best of all was the hot chocolate! My oh my, I've never tasted hot chocolate as good as the one that Roberto (the one and only guy serving the guests in the hotel restaurant) fixed. I believe he made the drink out of Nutella chocolate spread straight from the jar! Seriously thick and of course, sinfully delicious!!

Must Do :
1) Pisa Tower - We took the train (Euro 15 return per person) to Pisa upon reaching the hotel as our room was not ready upon arrival. Pisa is 1 hour away from Florence. The train we took was ala our KTM train. From the Pisa Centrale station, we took the cab (Euro 5) to the Pisa Tower. It took about 10 mins to reach there. What do you do there? Camwhoring! We spent nearly 3 hours taking shots after shots. There's a row of stalls selling souvenirs, so grab whatever Pisa souvenirs you like here because they're hard to find elsewhere. Plus, it's relatively cheaper here compared to other places. Fridge magnets cost between Euro 2 to Euro 4.
2) Open markets - They're a few open markets worth going. The one near our hotel was San Lorenzo market. This was where we spent our Euros to purchase souvenirs for people back home. Nice silk Italian ties from Euro 3, silk pashminas from Euro 7, tees from Euro 5, various accessories from Euro 5, pill boxes from Euro 2, key chains from Euro 1 etc. Florence is well known for its leather goods too. You'll be spoilt with endless choices of leather bags, shoes, leather-bound journals, books etc.
3) Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi Gallery - Ponte Vecchio is a nice bridge with stores along it. Mostly jewellery shops. It's believed to be the only Florentine bridge to survive the World War 2. A few metres away from it, you'll find Uffizzi Gallery. Entrance fee is Euro 6.50. It's one of the finest and oldest arts museums and they have statues of famous figures outside e.g. Gallileo, Michaelangelo, Leornado Da Vinci etc. We read that a replica of the famous David statue was outside this museum as well. Hubby and me went around to look for it, asked people around but to no avail. Apparently it was right in front our eyes but alas! it was under restoration, so it was covered by plastic. Sigh!
4) Galeria dell'Academia - Our search for Michaelangelo's David ended here. This is where you would find the original statue. Entrance fee is Euro 6.50. We went straight to him upon entering the gallery. Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures. Yupp, the statue looked alive; the spectacular sculpture on a pedestal, with its detailed muscled calves, ribbed abs and veins on his body. The souvenirs in the gallery's souvenir shop were all about David. From key chains to posters to bags to table cloth etc with price tags starting from Euro 2.
5) Duomo Piazza -The city's beautiful cathedral, the symbol of the city. Brunelleschi's (one of the famous Renaissance architects) cathedral huge dome was considered an engineering feat of the time. A statue of Brunelleschi was sited in the piazza, with his figure looking upwards towards his dome.
6) The Mall - This is one of our shopping highlights! Hubby and me went crazy ok! We had to take a bus from Florence town. Costed us around Euro 6 return per person. The place is situated about 45 mins away from Florence town. Situated in a country-like area, it's actually an outlet for designer off-season goods! Imagine Gucci, Fendi, Armani, Ferragamo, Tod's, Bally, Burberry etc at more than 50% cheaper than what you'll find here. This bargain hunter totally went nuts! Ended up buying Tod's loafers (Euro 90), Armani shawl, (Euro 20), Fendi handbag, (Euro 150), Gucci wallet (Euro 60), Armani caps (Euro 15) and tees (Euro 15) etc.
7) Go on a day trip out to the country and enjoy the Tuscan landscape. You’ll discover a spectacular world of woods alternating with vines and olive trees, medieval farmhouses, Renaissance villas and castles. For this, you can join a guided day tour, starting from Euro 40 per person.

Before you embark on all these activities, do your research on travel portals such as Yahoo! Travel. You'll definitely find travel inspirations and guides that are valuable.





Good eats :
Where else to have the best authentic Italian food if not in Italy itself? Imagine all the pizzas, pastas and chocolates. Halal food including pizza and kebab are also available, from as low as 2 Euros. Chocolates are sold everywhere, with a 250g packet going from as little as 3 Euros. Florence is also believed to be the birthplace of gelato. From 2 Euros, you can choose all sorts of flavours, from Ferrero Rocher to Twix and Kinder Bueno. If you fancy hot chocolate,
go for the pure thick hot chocolate drink made from dollops of Nutella (that originates from Italy).


Avoid:
Nahhh, Florence is a safe city, so you can walk around without fearing for your safety.

Insider Tips:
I would say that Florence is my favourite Italian city. It's a cultural and an architectural gem indeed. If you fancy Medieval and Renaissance era, it's like going down the memory lane. The city is timeless. People are friendly. Goods are cheap. Everywhere is within walking distance. So, make sure you bring good walking shoes as the city is best seen on foot. It is also advisable to buy tickets to galleries and museums, especially Galeria dell’Academia and Uffizi ahead of time to avoid long queues.