Travel: Paris

Hey everyone!

I hope you are having a wonderful week so far, the weather has been pretty miserable in London, so it is great that I can reflect on my last long weekend away in Paris in this blog. Taking me back to happier memories.  I am so grateful that I can travel between two very different cities within a space of 2 hours – just gives me the fix I need when I need to get away from London.

Where we stayed

The reason for my trip to Paris this time around was to help my friend move her suitcases from Paris back to London. My manager said that this was a tenuous excuse to travel all the way to Paris, I completely agree, but any excuse to go to Paris! We wanted to stay quite central, and where is better than close to the Galerie LaFayette at The Dream Hotel Opera. Though the location was really convenient, I really do not recommend this hotel. The rooms were clean but the lift is shockingly small. For those who are claustrophobic, I really advise that you either stay on lower floors or find alternative hotels because, for someone who isn’t scared of refined spaces, I was very uncomfortable. Considering how much I paid for the hotel, it was not worth it at all! 2 out of 5 pineapples.

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Day 1: Gastronomy Galore

It was a rather girly weekend where it was filled with food and shopping. The most memorable part of the holiday was going to one of the best Boulangerie I have ever been too – Du Pain et des Idées. It is probably one of the most Instagrammed bakeries in Paris and for good reason. The best pastries I have had and they also do these wonderfully warm savoury rolls. I am salivating as we speak. Honestly, 5 out of 5 pineapplesIt is also conveniently located next to the canals and would be considered the “hipster” part of Paris with quaint boutiques. This is where I bought my first purchase of the trip on Rue de Marseille 🙂 

As we had some time to kill before our picking up my friend’s bag, what is better than continuing eating? We wanted somewhere close to where we were and a quick Google search led us to Le Marine on Quai de Valmy, right by the canals. One thing I love about Paris is they always have a good menu of the day, comforting main and scrumptious desserts. It is your typical Parisienne cafe, with the monochrome tiled floors and super small tables. If you are looking for a quick and affordable bite to eat, I recommend it if you are in the area, but nothing to go out your way for. 3 out of 5 pineapples.

After picking up the suitcases from the French suburbs, we made it back to the hotel… up the super tiny lift and into our .. super small room. As you can imagine, I wanted to get out of the hotel as soon as possible and we made our way to Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. Though it is filled with tourists, it is a beautiful building which I recommend at least seeing once, Just look at the amazing dome below. This was also where I bought my second purchase of the trip, worth the detour to have a look inside, so I give it 3 out of 5 pineapples.

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This weekend was also to celebrate my friend’s birthday and her favourite cuisine is Japanese, so we obviously had to try and find one of the best restaurants in Paris for her! Nodaïwa is a very quaint and zen restaurant near the Louvre that specialises in eel dishes and comes up in nearly every Japanese food guide to Paris. We were luckily able to get a table at 7 pm as it opened. It was a great experience with the staff being super friendly. The menu is limited, so if you aren’t going to enjoy eel, I would not recommend it. We started off with sea bass sashimi and ordered the Sakura set. They were both very well executed and I recommend getting the sashimi – super fresh and a light white fish as a starter. We ended the meal with black sesame ice cream (must order) and their special dessert of the day: Yuzu Soya Panna Cotta (don’t order). Unfortunately, the texture of the pannacotta was gritty because of the soya rather than luxurious creamy jiggle you get with a normal one. I will give it 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 2: More Shopping

The best morning starts off with a great breakfast. Conveniently located near the hotel is La Gramont, which I have visited before with family. This is on the main street of Boulevard des Italiens and perfect for people watching. The beautiful terrace of Le Gramont makes it one of my favourite spots in Paris. They do a quaint breakfast – coffee, orange juice, croissant or baguette with confiture (jam) – yum! I was being greedy and ordered scrambled eggs with cheese as well. I am not sure why, but the French seem to enjoy their eggs really “bitty” and lumpy, rather than the smooth texture in the UK. Not sure whether I am a fan, to be honest. Regardless, a lovely little cafe, so it gets 4 out of 5 pineapples.

The remainder of the day was spent wandering the streets around Opera and going high street shopping, where I ended up with my third purchase of the trip. Along the way, my friend mentioned the prettiest Starbucks in Paris (3 Boulevard des Capucines). It was worth making the detour for. The beautiful ceilings and different reading areas and a long working table. Wish we had something like this in London!

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We continued with the Japanese cuisine theme and had a late lunch at Aki. A casual Japanese restaurant specialising in okonomiyaki. I am not a big fan, but they did have other set menus which meant that you can have half portions of soba and rice in one meal – which is a dream. The food is average but the price is reasonable; this is probably why it is a favourite amongst locals often with long queues outside. A casual eatery but nothing special, it gets 2.5 out of 5 pineapples. For dessert, we headed up the street to the bubble tea joint – The Alley. There has been a lot of hype around this brand as seen on my Instagram, but there isn’t one in London, so I was really surprised to see it in Paris. The queue was also long here but seemed to be more reasonable than the ones I have seen in Hong Kong. Is it worth the hype? – definitely, one of the best bubble teas I have tasted. I tried the famous brown sugar bubble tea, whilst my friend got the classic but hot. Not too creamy or sweet, it was super yummy – 4.25 out 5 pineapples.

We continued our shopping journey, to one of the most beautiful places in Paris, Jardin du Palais Royal. Even in winter when there are no leaves on the trees, it is still worth a visit. Surrounding the gardens are these elegant archways with boutiques on the side. Nearby there are also other shops (this is where I bought my fifth and final purchase of the trip 🙂 ).  

We ended the evening walking past the Louvre and along the River Seine, passing the Notre Dame to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I highly recommend this route as you see so many beautiful and iconic buildings along the way. I had never been to the bookstore before and I highly recommend it as it is one of the few places to find books in English. However, the feel of the store is really special. The old bookcases and all the various nooks and crannies to hide away. You can understand why it is so famous and also why you see their famous “tote” bag along the streets of Paris. Personally, I think it is a must visit!

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Of course, we had to have dinner, so of course, you need a double crepe dinner! We didn’t have anywhere particular in mind, but Crêperie des Pêcheurs came up after a quick search. It is along a very touristy street, but once you enter a very quaint restaurant, decorated to look like the hull of a ship, with sails on the ceilings. Personally, the savoury crepe was disappointing, but the texture of the sweet crepe (just butter and sugar filling) was super yummy and with Chantilly cream just made it dreamy. Quaint little shop, don’t go out your way to go but if you are in the area, do stop for a sweet crepe! 3.5 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 3: Lunch then homebound

Our Eurostar back to London was in the afternoon, so just in time for a spot of lunch before we left. We wanted to stay close to the hotel for an easy exit. We wanted to go to Le Strogoff but they were already closed for breakfast (11 am), so we walked to Café Le Brebant which had this beautiful interior and terrace. We wanted to enjoy a simple meal and watched the world go by. The service was good, unfortunately, the food was average, so it only gets a 2.5 out of 5 pineapples.

There wasn’t much culture this time around, but I am sure I will be back in Paris soon enough. Where is your favourite place to eat in Paris? Do you have any recommendations for my next visit? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Culture: I am Ashurbanipal

Hi everyone!

How has your week been so far? I am not going to lie – I feel like January is starting to drag, however, I can’t believe that it is already near the end of the month and I have Chinese New Year to look forward to!  To keep my spirits high and trying not to let the cold winter days bring me down I have been keeping my eye out for exhibitions in London to share with you all.

Last Sunday, I went to the British Museum to visit “I am Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria” exhibition. Though I have been fascinated by the history of Babylon and the Middle Eastern region during this time, I do not know very much about that period apart from the beautiful statues that I had previously seen in the British Museum and the Louvre. As you can imagine, I was super excited to learn a little bit more about the Assyrian empire. The current exhibition will be available until 24th February, so if you are in town and want to keep out the winter cold, I would highly recommend the exhibition.

King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (r. 669–c. 631 BC) was the most powerful man on earth. He described himself in inscriptions as ‘king of the world’, and his reign from the city of Nineveh (now in northern Iraq) marked the high point of the Assyrian empire, which stretched from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the mountains of western Iran. – British Museum

The Lions and the Library

When you first enter the exhibition, there is a wonderful ambience. I personally, think it is one of the most tastefully displayed exhibitions that I have been to in a long time. The room was relatively dark but key pieces were highlighted with spotlights. From the start, the impression I got about King Ashurbanipal was that he completely understood the concept of “personal brand”. The beautiful artwork carved in gypsum clearly advertises his bravery through the killing of lions – the greatest beast in the Assyrian empire. Not only did he consistently boast how brave he was but also liked to tell everyone how smart he was. During his reign, he made it a mission to learn from the scholars at the time.  There were great examples of their clay tablets and writings at the exhibition, including extracts of the Epic of Gilgamesh

Lights & Action

Assyrian artists seemed to have enjoyed depicting their success of wars through cruelty and brutality in extremely graphic detail! The museum made wonderful use of projectors, which I had never seen before. By projecting an outline on a different part of the panel, you were able to follow the intricate story; it really gave an insight into how stories were told to the masses during that time. With sound and lighting effects – it was just like a movie. I found it truly jaw-dropping; even if you might not be interested in the history, it is worth just to see the use of projectors!

I spent roughly two hours at the exhibition, and this was also not at my usual pace of reading every single thing possible. There was so much in the exhibition, unfortunately,  I did get fatigued with all the information and intricate objects that I found myself skipping certain items or sections because I just couldn’t absorb any more facts.

If I was to give feedback to the British Museum, they should have provided an option of an audio guide, so that it was easier to step back and observe an object and listen to commentary rather than rely on the information written on display. There was exclusive curators’ commentary available through Apple Music and Google Play. However, by the time I found out about it, I was already inside the exhibition with no reception so I couldn’t download the audio guide and I also didn’t have my headphones either…

Nonetheless, it was a great exhibition; so it gets a 4 out of 5 pineapples. Have any of you been? What were your thoughts? As always, I would love to read your comments and thoughts. Do share any interesting facts about the Assyrian empire with me; or if you have any questions on the exhibition, please comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S The Guardian does a great review of this exhibition as well if you want to learn more!.

 

 

Travel: Malta

malta jan 2019

Hi Everyone!

I hope you are well and had a wonderful weekend 🙂 It has been personally a stressful week and I have been struggling with quite a lot of different emotions. It isn’t an excuse but ultimately this has meant I could not keep with the posting schedule I set out at the beginning of the year.

I had such high hopes that I would be able to stick to a bi-weekly post, but I think Christine Rai (@yeahitschill) summarised it perfectly with her Instagram post. I am going to forgive myself and I think I will discuss the topic of resilience later on, as part of my self-discovery this year.

Alas! You are not here to read about all the above, I am very excited to share my weekend trip with my boyfriend to Malta! For those who have been following my blog, would know that I did not travel out this Christmas so we decided that we would start the year with a BANG and go away.

Where we stayed

I did some prior research to the trip and many different blogs recommend St. Julian’s as a place to stay rather than the old town of Valetta. I wanted to stay somewhere I could enjoy the sea, so it seemed like a good choice. It is a resort area rather than the cultural UNESCO town of Valetta. Luckily, St Julian’s is only around a 20-minute car ride away from the city centre, so I thought that wasn’t too bad in terms of distance/getting around. We stay at the Westin Dragonara Resort; my initial reaction was it was a huge hotel and had a Wes Anderson feel to it. It was painted this wonderful pink and white on the outside – which I LOVED!

Ignore the baby cot in the picture, they just put it in our room by mistake! 

Tip: When booking hotels I always request a higher room because normally the more expensive rooms (such as suites) are located on the top or penultimate floors. If you want to enjoy the “same view”/amenities but not the price, asking for higher floors is a great way to do this.

This time it really worked out because the hotel was in the process of renovation and we ended up with a newly decorated room and floor. The most basic rooms are HUGE!!! With a super king size bed, desk and sofa space; a massive closet and a good size bathroom. Perfect for a resort type of holiday, where you might be spending more time in your bedroom relaxing. The choice suited us because we wanted to use this weekend to recover from the festive period with family. This is distinctively a different kind of holiday than my usual where I pack it full of stuff to do and exhaust myself. The hotel has an indoor heated pool and a big gym as well (but I can’t tell you whether it was amazing or not because we didn’t manage to get to see it…too busy relaxing hehe).

What we did 

Admittedly, we didn’t have that much time in Malta, so we had to try and make the best of it for the only one full day we were there. We didn’t hire a car but we did see the double-decker sightseeing buses, so I thought that would be a good idea for an introduction to the island. There are three companies in Malta, but we chose Citysightseeing because our hotel was a stop on their route, which made it very convenient. We purchase the €20 day pass each, which is pretty reasonable, especially compared to London transport.

This is not my usual way of travelling but given my limited time and I didn’t want to do too much planning, this was a nice in between. There is a North & South route which the ticket allowed us to travel on. We opted for the South route which stopped in Valetta and also to travelled to Marsaxlokk fishing village and the Blue Grotto.

  • Valetta – We stopped at the Valetta waterfront, which was beautiful! I highly recommend stopping there to look at the sea and the beautiful Barrakka gardens.
  • Marsaxlokk fishing village – We only drove past this on the bus but I regret not stopping off. It is super picturesque! If I was to go back, I would definitely have an ice-cream by the sea and watch the beautiful fishing boats bob in the water.
  • Blue Grotto – Learn from our mistake, go early in the morning and preferably not in the middle of winter. By the time we arrived at 14:30, the last fishing boat was departing. I was unable to convince my boyfriend to join because of the choppy waters, which was a shame. It will have wait until next time.

Where we ate 

  • For a really cosy Italian restaurant with great seafood, I highly recommend Storie e Sapori. We had fresh lobster linguine with clams and it was so delicious! The people are wonderfully friendly and I think was reasonably price given the quality of food.
  • We also tried Palio’s restaurant at the Westin. Again, the food was amazing quality and fresh. Though casual and probably not a usual place for date night, I think it is worth trying. Highly recommend the ribs.

Short but sweet

I was sad to leave on Sunday morning back to London. Malta did have a bit of everything, culture, nature, friendly people and good food. It was a short trip but a very sweet one. Next time, I will visit when it is warmer and for longer.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Have you ever been to Malta before? Would you recommend anything I should try next time I go?  As always, would love to hear from you, so leave a comment below. For more pictures, do check out my Instagram!

Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

 

 

Travel: Hamburg, Germany

Hi Everyone,

How is your weekend going so far? Welcome to the next installment of Pineapple Chicken!

I went on a weekend trip to Hamburg back in September after a long trip to the US; this originally was a solo trip, but my best friend managed to come out there to see me, and always her presence made it out to be an even better trip! Another reason, a more selfish one, was because I wanted to obtain Silver Tier on the British Airways loyalty programme before my cut off period, which resulted in a few more trips before October. However, this obsession to get to silver is a discussion for another day! (let me know if you think this would be something interesting for you?)

Hamburg is a beautiful city and I really would fly out to visit again. The short weekend I was there did not give me enough time to explore all the different places that I saved on my google maps and research. Unfortunately, it also rained whilst I was out there, which sadly dampens my holiday spirit. Hamburg did remind me of Copenhagen, and when I looked at the map – it was easy to realise why.  However, I personally enjoyed Hamburg more, or maybe I need to go to Copenhagen again to make a proper comparison ;).

Thought of the day: Life Leverage

Hi everyone 🙂

It is currently a very grey Sunday in London and I have found myself reflecting on the year (I know, it is a bit early, but helpful exercise) and what I would like to do with the Pineapple Chicken blog. Unfortunately, there has not been much content lately and I am really sorry about that.

  1. I think have been extremely lazy (which is definitely a bad trait)
  2. I am not sure on the direction of where the blog should go
  3. I have not been going to as many exhibitions as I want to because other parts of my life have steam rolled across my plans.

BUT, those are excuses, so here I go with little mini Pineapple Chicken thoughts of the day. I would love to use this platform to share all the fun I have, but also things that I deal with being a relatively young profession in London Town! This is where I would like to hear from my readers! What would you love to hear about?

Struggles

I do sometimes struggle with living in my late twenties (very close to 30 years old!) and what life would bring. Do you feel the same? I have days where I feel empowered and top of the world. Nothing would phase me. Unfortunately, they seem to be far and few between, most of the time, I feel a little aimless. Many have said that it is normal, but as a person, I function much better when I have a purpose and sense of direction.

Life Leverage

My boyfriend has introduced me to a book he was reading – Life Leverage by Rob Moore. (Not an ad) Currently, I am on Chapter 8, but it has asked some profound questions that have got me thinking.

  • What are my priorities in life?
  • What brings me joy?

I still got quite a bit more of the book to read, but if my readers find it interesting, I will give a summary of what I found was helpful!

Mentoring

I am also very lucky to have some amazing mentors at work as well. One of the directors asked me, “where do you see yourself in 10 years time?”. *wince*. Isn’t that the most daunting question ever?! Just reliving that moment in my head brings me shivers down my spine. It is such a difficult question, but I think one needs to tackle that head-on, right?

  • What motivates you?
  • What do you really love doing?

So welcome to my journey and I hope that you will join me along the way of self-discovery. Of course, we are going to take photos, eat and travel along the way; but I would love to hear from you and what things keep you thinking/awake at night!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Travel: Paris

Hey everyone,

How is it a going? I am doing something new today! Currently, I am blogging on my phone, my poor attempt at being mobile and agile. This is also to prove to myself that I have no excuse not to update my little blog!

Let’s see how this works out, happy for anyone to put on a bet on how many spelling and grammar mistakes I make 🙂

I had not been back to Paris since I was probably 12 years old. However, since the summer of 2017, I have returned 3 times in the space of a couple of months. I anticipate I will be visiting even more this year as one of my best friends has moved there to work but also I think I have genuinely fallen in love with the city. In all honesty, I recall not enjoying my experience when I was younger; apart from Disneyland Paris, of course. As a result, it has never made it back into the ‘Places I want to go list’. However, this has all changed. Maybe I have grown older and have the freedom to do what I want (likely) or I have become more sophisticated (very unlikely).

This time round I spent about 2.5 days in Paris and made it to a culture and shopping trip! Here are some top tips and places to visit:

  • The Louvre – you must be thinking, dude… Like everyone puts this on the list. Lame. However, I would also be stupid to not put it on here. It was amazing! I had not been back in roughly 15 years, so for me it was a brilliant experience. There was a massive queue to enter without prepaid tickets. However, it did move relatively quickly. Really worth the wait. Or you can be smart and just prebooked a ticket but for a premium if €2.50 (personally, worth it, just was disorganised). They currently have a massive exhibition on Delacroix, where infamous French Revolution painting is displayed. This is free of charge (after you pay admission), though you have to select it as an option. It is showing until July 23, so hurry!! Other recommendations include the relatively new Islamic Art space, Napoleon living quarters and the Apollo Gallery where the Crown jewels are held. Is it just me, but when diamonds are that big… They just look fake to me? So I wasn’t that impressed but the interior of the gallery is definitely not to be missed. Of course, I said hi to Mona but you have to battle against a sea of tourists to even catch a glimpse of her. I recommend just having a quick look and move on to the rest of the museum. I can go on and on, but as you can tell, it is a definite 5 out of 5 pineapples!
Apollo Gallery
  • Musee D’Orsay – I have never been before and I think it is wirth visiting if you are particularly interested in more modern art and the Impressionists movement. It is located in an old train station and the architecture alone is worth the visit. Definitely worth visiting the Van Gough gallery where his self portrait is located. Again just look for the sea of tourists. My favourite was on the top floor where through the clock face you can see the Sacre Cour across the river. It is a picture perfect moment that is worth the hard climb up the stairs… Or take the lift haha. I give the museum 4 out of 5 pineapples, just because I prefer the Louvre more and the layout is a bit odd.
Overlooking the platform
  • Shopping at La Marais is a must for all those fashionable and trendy and have a hefty wallet. I struggled because I couldn’t find things that were really within my price range but worth just wandering the little streets. You never know what treasure you might find. For that reason I give the area 3.5 pineapples.
  • Pink Mamma is probably one of the most hipster and beautiful restaurants in Paris. It had a cult like following on Instagram and there was a massive queye waiting for it to open at 6.45pm. We arrive at 6pm and there was a queue of 30 people in front of us (weekend). We were so chuffed when we got seated in their beautiful and infamous greenhouse on the roof! The restaurant specialises in beef, however, I don’t eat red meat so it is a shame I couldn’t give a review. Though I did note most people went for their pizza and pasta. I also recommend their homemade lemonade which includes yuzu and pineapples! It was a lovely dining experience and the service was very friendly. However, I was not blown away by the food. Go for great pictures but not great food. Overall, 3 out of 5 pineapples.
A portal to another world

That is all I have for this post but I am sure I will be back to Paris soon, so please do give me recommendations. Would love to try out new things!!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken

Art: Soutine’s Portraits

Hi everyone 🙂 and welcome to another instalment of all things art and cultural! This week I wanted to cover an exhibition I visited a couple of weeks ago, which I had been looking forward to a while when I saw adverts on the tube. This was the lovely Soutine’s Portraits – Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys at the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House. This exhibition is available until 21 January 2018 with ticket prices for the gallery and exhibition at £10.50, or £5 with the art pass!

Somerset House: Fun, Culture & Food!

For those who need some ideas for Christmas-y day out, I highly recommend visiting Somerset House. Not only does this iconic building house the wonderful Courtauld Gallery, but it has also now opened their famous ice rink for Christmas! I highly recommend that you purchase tickets for the ice skating beforehand as it is really popular. There is something magical about skating in the evening when it is all dark and the tree and surrounding area are beautifully lit up. Luckily, given that the sun sets around 4pm in London, you would have plenty of time to skate around in the dark! Not to mention, one of my favourite restaurants in London is also located here – Spring. Hopefully, I will get a chance to visit soon so I can share an in-depth review on the blog. For the meantime, you have to take my word for it that the food is exquisite and the restaurant is beautifully decorated! Perfect spot for a special night out. Everything you need in place: fun, culture and food!

Courtauld Gallery

I admit that I do not know much about Soutine but I was very drawn to the picture of the bellboy which was used to advertise the exhibition. The distorted face and disproportionate size of the body parts, such as the hands; meant that it was really different that I was instantly drawn to it. The expression of bellboy was extremely emotive despite the broad brush strokes and bright colours.

This style is consistent throughout all of Soutine’s paintings but the use of colour changed over time and reflected his mood. Chaïm Soutine was a Russian immigrant to Paris and struggled as an artist, living in poverty in the early years. It has been said his expressionist style channelled these struggles into his brushstrokes. Personally, I think this is very true and extremely poignant in his early works.

Soutine did have a moment of good fortune when a US collector bought 50 of his paintings, and since then you see an emergence of different characters his paintings, such as a waiter in a tuxedo which was much more reflective of the high-class restaurants/hotels he was frequenting.

One of the first impressions I got from the paintings is that it is very “Tim Burton”, just a little surreal and a little melancholy. I greatly enjoyed the exhibition, which brought to life a painter I knew little about but thoroughly enjoyed. However, it was a very small exhibition and was slightly disappointed that there was not more. Therefore, the exhibition just misses full marks and receives 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Despite the exhibition being small, I definitely recommend leaving enough time to wander around the Courtauld Gallery. This is the first time I visited the gallery and I was completely blown over by some of the wonderful pieces that are displayed! I did not realise that one of the famous “Card Players” by Cezanne and the beautiful portrait “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère” by Manet (1882) was located here. Such gems just under my nose and I did not realise all this time. Even the ceilings and each of the rooms are worth an exhibition in itself! Therefore, for the gallery, I give it a glowing 5 out of 5 pineapples. I personally believe that the entrance fee is worth every penny!

I am really interested in your thoughts about Soutine and the Courtauld Gallery, please put your comments below 🙂

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken