French Fries, Waffles and Beer

WBFF is not an acronym for World’s Best Friend Forever but my interpretation of Bruges – Waffles, Beer and French Fries.

Recently I took a trip to The Netherlands to meet up with some old friends, visit some forgotten places and in between check out the cozy little town of Bruges in Belgium. If you rent a car from Amsterdam it will take you approximately 3 hours to get to Bruges. A couple of hours are sufficient for a lovely weekend experience. Bruges is one of a many cities which are referred to as “the Venice of the North.”

Most parking places would be full on a Saturday but we found a “hidden gem” on Zilverstraat 2 – the parking is under a mall building and has enough space and is right at the city center.

We headed straight to the central square, where (1) we had some French Fries while enjoying the view of the historic city center which is a prominent World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

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Afterwards (2) we entered the Historium and did a quick beer tasting at the Duvelorium Grand Beer Café.

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(3) We went down Wollestraat in order to get to one of the famous views in Burges (and eat some waffles).

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We walked around the city and sat down at the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan for a glass of beer.

Until next time!

Mauritius

Let me begin by telling you not to trust the weather forecast. Ever. A month before our trip to Mauritius I was checking the weather forecast every week (our trip was at the end of December) and I was horrified because it showed rain and thunderstorms pretty much every day. In addition, if it did not say anything about rain, it was just super cloudy. Fast forward to our trip during the last 10 days of December – nothing but sunshine and sunburn.

We stayed at a nice boutique hotel by the ocean. The food was great, little bit of Indian, little bit of Asian, lots of tasty fruits.

During our stay we went to the Casela Zoo, where we had a “Walk with lions”. It was a bit alarming that we had to sign a sheet of paper that said that if something were to happen to us, they were not responsible and we also had to leave the phone number of a close relative (in case something happens to us).

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At the zoo there were lots of things to do. You could also enjoy the company of baby lions, walk through a big cage with even more lions, something like a safari throughout the zoo with different animals but this was mostly filled with families with children. The zoo was good in that it is the only zoo I have seen to provide so much space for the animals living there, which however meant that you might also not be able to see the animals, due to the vast space. It provided a lot of activities for people with children, however the walk with lions was not one of them.

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We also took a Southwest trip around the island, during which we passed through Le Morne, La Prairie, and Macondé on the way to Chamarel in the Rivière Noire District.

Saltworks

 

Chamarel Waterfall, the country’s tallest, which plunges 328 feet (100 meters) against a natural backdrop.

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Next stop – the Seven Coloured Earth, a rainbow of striated volcanic rocks.


We stopped at the La Rhumerie de Chamarel distillery, where we sampled the spirits and enjoyed a traditional Mauritian 3-course lunch.

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Following lunch, we travelled to a viewpoint over Black River Gorges National Park, then the secluded Grand Bassin Lake and the enormous volcanic crater Trou aux Cerfs.

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The day’s last stop was the shop of ship models, where we could see skilled craftswomen at work on ship miniatures, some of which take months.

 

One of the days we took a boat trip, where you could enjoy swimming with wild dolphins (as in, not in a dolphinarium, but in the ocean) which was awesome, especially the feeling of going further into the ocean. There were dozens of dolphins in the ocean that day and my husband said he even swam just over a mother dolphin with its baby playing around.

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Spain, Valencia, Las Fallas 2018

Las Fallas is a festival, held each year on (and before) Saint Joseph’s day.

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The term Fallas refers both to the festival and the figures which are placed on the streets of Valencia by the 15th of Match and burned during on the 19th. Las Fallas is part of the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of humanity list.

 

There are a few stories about the origin of the festival. The most common one is that already in the Middle Ages, carpenters would take their unnecessary stuff to the streets in order to burn them and free up space for the coming spring season (thus, welcoming the spring). Afterwards, people kept adding stuff to the piles of “garbage” and playing around with old clothes to make figures. If you’ve got more stories – please add them to this post, I’d love to hear them!

Nowadays, there are even professional Falla Artists.

The city prepares for this festival throughout the whole year. Each neighborhood or street of the city has an organised group of people who make 1 falla figure (well, 2, if you count the infantil fallas, the little ones). There are around 700 fallas around the city, worth millions. Besides the falla in front of the Town Hall, all other figures are paid for by the people.

The celebrations begin a week before the 19th. Every day there is a “wake-up-call” at 8:00 (La Despertà), where brass bands play loud music and throw firecrackers in order to wake up the people.

The streets have food and souvenirs, there are tents where beverages and food are offered.

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Every day at 14:00, in front of the town hall there is a “La Mascletà” happening –  a massive explosive barrage of coordinated firecracker and fireworks “display” which can be heard in almost each part of the city. I put “display” in quotation marks, since there’s not much to see but loooots to hear.

La Plantà – 15th of March when all falla figures must be installed on the streets.

L’Ofrena de flors  – there is a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary which throughout the celebrations is covered in flowers. In the streets, there are women and men wearing traditional clothing who walk up to the Virgin Mary in order to bring their flowers. They walk pretty much from dusk till down during the fallas.

 

 

Els Castells and La Nit del Foc – there are fireworks every night with the culmination being the 18th – La Nit del Foc.

 

Calles iluminadas – In the Ruzafa neighbouthood a few streets are lit and present a beautiful show I the night.

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La cremà – On the final night of the festival, around midnight on the 19th of March, all these beautiful figures are burned. Fireworks and firecrackers are connected to the figures and they put them on fire. They don’t take long to burn since the figures are made of paper, wood, papier-mâché and similar materials. Each burning is scheduled since precautions need to be taken. There should always be a fire-truck nearby in order to control the fires.

 

 

And now… if you happen to be in Valencia at another time, when there are no Fallas, don’t be blue – there’s plenty of museums, beautiful streets and views, as well as an amazing aquarium (Oceanografic) and a really cool zoo (Bioparc).

Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias

 

View from Saint Mary’s Cathedral

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Oceanografic

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Bioparc

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And of course, finally, if you’re not into cute animals or historic architecture, there’s the food and wine!

 

 

Crossing the ocean for the first time.

SO! Hello, hello! I had my first business trip to Las Vegas and I managed to stay for two more days and see one of the greatest natural wonders -Grand Canyon, and one of the greatest human projects of its time – Hoover Dam. First I got on a plane from Las Vegas to get to the Grand Canyon Maverick Airport – then got on a helicopter. Then got back and went back to the Canyon by bus. The next day I went to the Hoover Dam. 🙂

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Norway

Hello. It’s me.

Iana, not Adele.

So! I just came back from my crazy-great-felt-too-short-felt-too-long trip to Norway. Yes, Norway in March could be a bad idea. So if you’re interested in hiking, do it in the summer, when it’s the warmest. No, I didn’t see the Northern Lights, but I also didn’t put that on my agenda since I was in the south part in a low season. If you decide to visit in a not-so-smart moment like me, make sure you have waterproof boots (seriously – waterproof) and a waterproof jacket. I lived in The Netherlands for 4 years but nothing compared to my Norway experience of fog, wetness, cold and some more rain.

HOWEVER!

It was an insanely great experience and as my friend who lives there said “very authentic” because of the weather haha.

Well, here come the photos and the explanations as usual 🙂

I woke up at 3am, got on a plane from Sofia to Munich, then Oslo, then I was supposed to land in Haugesund, however the weather was bad so I ended up in Stavanger instead. Luckily, I met a super massively cool marine biology master student (I shall name him Kiba, he’ll know why haha).

I got to Haugesund around 7pm, ate, fell asleep, woke up at 5am, left for Stavanger again.

 

Pine trees, water, bridges, rocks, ferryboats, tunels and fish – Norway explained. JK

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Following was Gamle Stavanger old wooden town 🙂

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The next day we set off to conquer Preikestolen “Preikestolen is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1,982 ft) above the Lysefjorden. Atop the cliff, there is an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 metres (82 ft × 82 ft). It sits on the north side of the fjord, opposite the Kjerag plateau, located on the south side.” (Wikipedia)

Climbing trees because it was easier than the icy road, crawling, going through rivers of melted snow and holding hands to keep from falling to your death. Literally.

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To reach…

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…Magnificence!

And moving on to another great adventure with a starting point in Bergen, a city rich in history and sights. Second largest in Norway, founded around the 1020s, capital of Norway in the early 13th century, and from the end of the 13th century became a bureau city of the Hanseatic League. The League was  founded in Lübeck, Germany, (you can check out my roadtrip to Lübeck by clicking here) created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid.

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Bergen

Fun fact: The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names like the German airline Lufthansa or the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, in the Netherlands, and more.

It’s a pretty cool part of history to learn more about 🙂

Here I visited that quay known as Bryggen in Norwegian where some 300-year-old houses remain.

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Following was a 3.5-hour fjord cruise that included some wild goats, going under an icy-cold waterfall with some waterproof-suit-thing on and amazing views.

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The captain’s dog
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Old way of fishing by throwing stones in the water, forbidden now except in one place in order to preserve the tradition.

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Absolute happiness.

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And a little bit of Haugesund.

IMG_0550IMG_0554Harald Hårfagre

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Harald*, who apparently brought the country together because a pretty girl told him to if he wanted to marry her. Or so they say. Nothing to do with politics.

Harald Hårfagre * 🙂

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The end.

 

Fish + Veggies (2 recipes) (Salmon & Cod)

I’ve been experimenting altering a couple of recipes I found online some time ago. They’re both healthy and both easy to make but the first one takes less time. One involves cod fish (although you can use pangasius too) and the other salmon. 🙂

PS You will need an oven for this. It’s a funny thing to share, I know, but I didn’t have one for 2 out of 4 years living abroad so you begin to appreciate the little things. Like a proper shower, where more than 5 drops of water come out at a time. Brilliant this thing called “pressure”.

Without further ado:

Cod (or Pangasius) with squash and peppers

For 4 people I take around a kilo of the chosen fish (like, cod or pangasius, not like a Harry Potter fish, you actually want to make sure it’s intact, doesn’t have scars and all)

You will also need:

Salt

White pepper

Bread crumbs

1 squash

2 white-green peppers

A little bit of oil, if you have a spray thing – great

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the cucumber and the pepper into circles, spray or use just enough oil on the pan so the fish doesn’t stick. Cut the fish if needed and put salt and white pepper on both sides of the fish. Put it in the pan and put the vegetables on top of it. Spread some bread crumbs and put it in the oven for around 15 minutes. That’s it.


Salmon with asparagus and potatoes (takes about an hour)

You’ll need:

(For 4 people) 4 salmon fillets

Asparagus – depends how much you want – 3-4 pieces per person is ok

Small potatoes – 25-30 of them or a kilo bag

4 tablespoons oil

8 tablespoons lemon juice

1 lemon aside from the one you’ll need for the juice

10-15 cloves minced garlic – depends how much you like garlic really – I almost put the whole thing in

4 tablespoons (fresh) thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

4 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut the potatoes into halves if they are really small, otherwise cut the halves into halves too. You want to have two oven trays because of the quantity of the food. Put some oil on the pan and mix the potatoes in it, add salt, black pepper, a little bit of the garlic and thyme and put them in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. You can mix them around for a bit somewhere in the middle of those 25-30 minutes.

Make a glaze: combine 4 Tbsp. lemon juice, 4 Tbsp. honey, the rest of the garlic, and the thyme.

Cut the whole lemon in thin circles.

Depending on the size of your pans put the asparagus either with the salmon if you have space or with the potatoes since they’re almost cooked and you can move them on one side of the pan.

Put salt and pepper and the glaze on both sides of the salmon fillets and spread some of the glaze on the asparagus. Put the lemon circles on the fish. Put everything back in the oven for another 10-15minutes.

Eet smakelijk as the Dutch say 🙂