2016 in review & welcoming 2017

2017 just kicked in (yes, in my book it’s still the beginning of the year until February 1st) and I cannot believe I have spent 1.5 year without posting anything! (and I realise how much the WordPress has changed since…) And I really enjoy writing again after such a long time, especially to appreciate the year behind me.

2016 was a tough year, filled with hard work and self-doubt &-examination as I was juggling with a full-time job and intensive studying (which is the main reason for my absence on this blog). I also got incredibly frustrated, disappointed, even outraged sometimes as some of my plans were not exactly going as planned or felt out of control. Lot of my mental energy went into thinking about what I want to get from life and what would be the most suitable path for me – both on professional and personal level.

I cannot say that I have a definite answer (after all it takes a lifetime to understand what one truly wants) but I am determined to change some aspects of my life ~ starting with how I spend my time throughout the year, how I balance work & my free time.

2016 also taught me how to persevere on a personal project while being patient, always see the silver lining and stay focused on my goal. I have put a lot of my time into work, and a bit less into pleasurable things. It can sounds like a source of frustration but I do not regret a minute of effort, especially as I value my free time even more now: being deprived of free time made me savour downtime even more: just sitting down on the sofa sipping my tea while reading a good book became exquisite!

I discovered that I had much more resistance than I thought, and I am proud to say that I completed all my accountancy exams in 2016.

Luckily all this didn’t keep me away from enjoying my life in London and abroad.

I slept a lot, ran a lot, equally laughed, celebrated, travelled to some lovely places.

I got the chance to discover the wonders of Cornwall with my family and my close friend, hiked the muddy paths of the Moors in Yorkshire in the mist, climbed the hilly streets of Bergen under the pouring rain, relaxed on the sun-kissed beaches in Crete, ate the best tapas in Sevilla with my dear friends, and chilled in my hometown in Provence (between two exam revisions).

Another “high” of 2016 was my trip in Cuba, which was filled with wonderful encounters, smiling faces, amazing landscapes and lots of laughter (not to mention unforgettable mojitos and grilled fish!). This trip was such a treat this autumn as I escaped the London weather after my exams.

[NB: I might dedicate it a separate post to my 2016 trips to revive the nice memories…]

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Museo della Revolucion, La Habana

I feel incredibly grateful that this year gave me the opportunity to learn, become stronger and maybe a bit wiser. The journey will continue in 2017 as I wish to:

  • be more present & serene – taking up my daily meditation: this is a big challenge for me: just to stop, take a break a focus on being instead of doing.
  • be healthier – i have starting cutting refined sugars and I cannot believe how hard it is and how addicted I am to my favourite treats. I have managed to cut down so far but regularly crave a chocolate bar (especially during these long winter evenings in London). The other challenge I signed up for is 1,000-miles run in 2017: I started a week ago, and I realise how far the 1,000mi are, but I enjoy pushing my limit a bit further every time i go out for a run.
  • travel more often: to spend time with family & friends and discover this world, one country at a time…

I purposely keep this list very short as I know the first two take time and dedication. As I know myself pretty well, I know setting too many goals feels overwhelming, especially as I already spend a lot of time reading, cooking at home, going to exhibitions, and drawing.

I hope 2017 will be filled with fulfilled, family time, great encounters, travels and lots of love.

x

California break

hi all 🙂

just coming back from holidays…A few weeks ago I was in California, and it was a wonderful road trip and I already feel a bit of nostalgia writing these lines.

Discoveries, good surprises, disappointments , unexpected events/endeavors, never felt that French (although I feel more like a mix of influences).

~ Got struck by~

– food portions. (sorry, couldn’t help noticing). however, got delighted by the great diversity of eateries in cities (which somehow reminded me of London)

Delicious fried avocado breakfast in Sacramento

– LA traffic: well….what to say about it…how come the city doesn’t have a broader network of public transport?

– poverty (especially in LA) – what is the city hall doing? I realise how economically vulnerable you can be in such a country. No safety net. the downside of the American Dream.

– Sizes of houses: I could say “obscene”. especially if you consider the fact that there people don’t live with their elder (2 generations under 1 roof). Look at Japan where people live in simply decorated small flats and have a high disposable income too. Hopefully there were also perfect counter examples – like in Sacramento:

Tiny houses in Sacramento

– Education costs (although this was not a discovery, but became a reality through discussion we had): $20,000 student fees each year…it’s insane! check by yourself, and you’ll see that in France student fees for public universities are ca. $400-600. Of course, our education system is far from perfect and it is still a challenge to make studies accessible to everyone – but at least you don’t need to borrow a ridiculous amount of money to go to university. Even with a great degree, how can you cope with such a big loan to payback?

– cops: well, although I got stopped due to “moment of confusion on the road”, I realized how nice policemen are in Europe (particularly here in the UK)

– didn’t like much of LA. didn’t want to go to Vegas (although a lot of people advised me to). skipped the Death valley despite having booked a night in a room weeks before (which convinces me that planning is only useful to some extend)

~ the unexpected gifts of our journey~

– Met incredible people (partly thanks to Airbnb) who shared with me very insightful talks about their fears, hopes for their country. people shared food with us, lent us kayaks for a ride, beach chairs, gave us free tickets to Yosemite.

we might have a distorted vision of the US – through mainstream media (thank you Fox News) – but it’s great to see that some people still have free spirit, and work for a better country (and better people).

– the drives: I hate driving (at least in the few places I had practised in France)…but driving on those mountains roads, surrounded by gorgeous landscapes….this was a real treat I didn’t expect. After couple of miles to adjust to automatic gear, I really enjoyed myself.

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– California is expensive – I cannot say you can “live on the cheap”.But looking closely, it is quite reasonable compared to the cost of enjoying our free time in London (specially for eating out and transports).Travelling is as expensive as you make.Most our meals (we ate once in a burger joint) cost less $15. we also cooked simple meals, bought fresh foods from deli, snacked on fruits. we roughly spent $50-60 for 2 each day on food (incl. snacks, coffees in the morning), and a couple of beers.

Planning to details a bit more of our trip in separate articles:

~ Coming soon ~

 Los Angeles

– Sequoia Forest

– King’s Canyon & Yosemite

– Lake Tahoe

– Sacramento

– Monterey & the Big Sur

– San Francisco

– Santa Barbara

My sister’s London favourites

Hi,

Last weekend I had the visit of my sister in London – I love her visits which give me the opportunity to go back to some places I like & (re)discover other nice places.

The weather got much colder (we lost almost 10 degrees in a couple of days, whereas last week it felt like summer) – so we did a couple of stopovers during our walks in London to warm up in some cosy shops/eateries.

Here are a couple of places/things we enjoyed:

1. Abeno – I already mentioned this place in a previous post, and this place convinced my sister with the nice food cooked in front of us. My favourite place for Japanese food in London.

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2. Camellia’s Tea house  in Carnaby Street – great place for cream tea (the best scones in London according to my sis) and an impressive range of green teas in a cosy décor.

3. Tatty Devine – another place I discovered with my sis, really cute jewellery. I fell for this “juicy” lime wedge to bring some color to my dark shirts.

Lime

4. East London Design Store – lots of cute things in this shop in Hackney, unfortunately last time I visited this was closed!

5. Orla Kiely and its lovely flower print. Beautiful furniture (although very expensive)

6. Sass & Belle another place for cute things in Covent Garden – I really like their collections of badgers & fox items.

Badger7. the exhibition “Ancient Lives” at the British Museum (£10): really impressive to see these mummies, and the exhibition is quite interactive. Really nice to go after you have walked around the ancient Egyptian collection.

8. Covent Garden Antique’s market (on Mondays) – covered market with lots of different objects (of different times): heirlooms, coins, clothes, jewellery, cameras…at very variable prices.

9. Irregular Shop on Camden high street – if you like excentric shoes, this is the place! Definitely not something I would choose to walk with, but also some cute accessories (I love the earrings!) Closed to Camden Lock Market.

earrings

10. Gill Wing Shop in Islington – the paradise for any cook! Good collection of coffee equipment (French press, caffetiere, filters…)

11. Pop Boutique in Soho – again, some vintage stuff, mainly fashion but you can also find fun accessories of from the 60s/70s.

12. Chinese Backery (Gerrard Str.) – and their cute cream-filled fish-shaped pastries. Also a great selection of bread rolls – identic to the ones I had eaten in Beijing. My sister loved the soft rice cake. Usually I go to Chinatown for some Asian supplies or when my boyfriend needs a haircut, so I can grab a 报纸 (baozhi) – so it was nice to break my habits!

IMG_3451[1]13. Paperchase – my sister and I love the nice stationery items we can find here in the UK (don’t feel like we have such nice supplies in France). the current “mercato” collection is really fun (especially the watermelons-shaped pockets) I could spend hours browsing through wish cards – I really like the fact that Brits stick to cards for holidays.

14. Spitafields Market  – nice gift shops, small eateries, good place to walk around to escape the rainy weather.

Easter break

Hi,

This year I took an exceptional break abroad over the Easter period – which is quite unusual to me as it tends to me more a family time for me.
I am lucky enough to have a friend – who is also a great travel companion 🙂 so this was a 1st time adventure for the two us travelling together!
We had quite a few discussions about where to go: where to find sun, nice food, nice sights…and preferably not too remote from our cities (London/Paris). Also, having deciding only 2 months before Easter, lots of option were already not affordable.
Looking for some sun and good hospitality, we finally decided to spend the Easter week in Turkey.
There are countless nice places to visit in Turkey – it is really hard to choose as many sites are quite distant from each other, so we focused on the Aegean shore. We wanted to avoid the crowd, but we couldn’t miss Istanbul – which I had heard so many times of.
The plan was Istanbul for a couple of days, before flying to Izmir, then driving to Çeşme peninsula, and finishing our stay with Ephesus/Selçuk.
RoadMap
First, I have to say I was quite shocked at the airfare proposed by Turkish airlines  (ok, it’s Easter – but seriously more than £400 for a return ticket? you can fly to NYC with that!) It was finally cheaper to take the train to Paris and fly from Orly airport to Istanbul with Pegasus airlines (Turkish budget airlines – average comfort & some delays on local flights the price is unbeatable)
First impressions before departure were not that great – as we’ve been asked awkward questions at the passport check:
French officer: “you’re travelling alone?”
me: “no Sir, I’m with travelling with a friend of mine”
French officer: “Really? where is she? I don’t see anyone with you. hmmm that’s weird to go to Turkey alone – what are you planning to do there?”
Well-done! This is how you make people feel welcome in another country! Feels like you’re travelling to a country at war! (especially when you see how many tourists fly to Turkey every year)
At our arrival in Turkey, we haven’t been exactly welcomed by greetings or flowers…no no no …instead, we had to wait 45 minutes before we could get into our pre-booked shuttle (ok, waiting is acceptable, but at least it’s nice to keep your clients informed beforehand?). Then it was the beginning of a loooooong journey! What I hadn’t realised is, the Sabiha Gokcen Airport (where most of budget flights land/depart) is located on the Asian side of the the Bosphorus, whereas we stayed in the exact opposite direction (on the the European side). The ride last at least 1:30 (I cannot believe there were traffic jam at 1am) It took us more than 2.5 hours to get from the airport to our B&B.
Best option in Istanbul is to choose a “pansyion” – which offers reasonable price for a decent room & breakfast (and Turkish breakfast is rather hearty so you have fuel for the entire morning)
Sultanahmet is probably the area where you will find most of the hotel/b&b offers because of the proximity with touristic point of interest (Aya Sofya, Blue Mosque…). the modern art museum of Istanbul (Istanbul Modern) was also quite interesting as there lots of video displays, which gave insight on tradition in Turkey.

 

It was also nice to take a ferry trip to the Asian side (Kadıköy) and enjoy of more “laid back” atmosphere, completely different from the buzzing old town. You can mingle with students who go out for coffees. By the way, despite coffee having a reputation of “national drink” (with soo many places advertising for “Turkish coffee”), Turks seem to be definitely tea people (very infused & sweetened black tea, without milk).
Funniest experience in Istanbul was to to go a local hammam – and find myself stupid as the “scrubwoman” (whose job is to rub your skin with a glove before soaping & shampooing you) was trying to explain me that I had to get wet.
Travelling around Turkey is fairly cheap. A normal “Turkish” meal should cost no more than TRL10 if you are outside touristic areas. You can trust small eateries – the only thing that looked a bit “filthy” were the mussels (directly from the Bosphorus! yum!) sold in the street. The normal price for a glass of tea TRL1.5 in Istanbul. But the good thing is most B&B provide a kettle (which is a blessing for the huge tea-drinker that I am!) If you consider to bring some food back, consider to visit supermarkets (Migros is the main retailer, Şok market is more discount). This is where we went to buy some tea, cooking spices, sweets…you will probably find better value for money than at the Grand Bazaar.

 

Besides this, most touristic places (Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya…) entrance costs TRL30. 
Disappointment came from our transit in airports where great part of the staff had close to zero English skills and tend to get annoyed/rude when asked something (the “this-is-not-my-problem” type of attitude if you see what I mean…). On the other side, you cannot cross any “point of interest” without being hassled by some guys who insist to bring you in their cafés/shop.
Worst, you can park somewhere (with no indication that you have to pay for a fee) until some guy approaches to extort  10TRL of “parking fee” aka “otopark”). This happened in Ephesus – and left us a bitter taste – despite the interest of the site. Luckily there were cute cats to pet across the ruins <3.  
After this “otopark extortion” experience (which luckily, was at the end of our trip) I have been under the impression that a lot of people see foreigners as a cash machine (o.k. this happens in quite a few countries like Morocco, but at least you could expect real hospitality) The same day, we were warmly recommended to visit the small village of Şirince (60o inhabitants, which is famous for its wine) => TOURIST TRAP! This looks like a total artificial uninteresting village (o.k. it might interesting if you lived in a remote island without contact to civilization…) where you will find basic products (olive oil, honey, wine) with a price premium. 
Luckily, there were places where we could avoid the crowd, admire beautiful sceneries, and have more relaxing time. I really enjoyed the Aegan cost with its turquoise sandy beaches in Çeşme. Alaçatı and its Greek-alike architecture. Sunset in Kuşadası.

 

L.

x

About women’s day

As I’ve been scrolling down on my facebook wall today, I kept seeing posts about “we can do it”, “thanks for the women in the world”, “enjoy women’s day”, “equality march”,”you are the best”

I know this might sound dull, but I don’t get the point of women’s day initiative.

Do we need a special day to recognize talent in our society (whether it’s men or women)? to be thankful for the people who inspire us? to be self-confident? to take time for ourselves? to be thankful for our mothers/sisters/daughters/spouses?

Talents should be recognized and nurtured EVERY SINGLE DAY!

O.k., lots of people might argue that we need to highlight inequalities between men&women (especially in terms of salary, in the household chores)

Of course! Of course women need to have easier access to top-management jobs, to be pushed to study scientific fields, to create their own business, to get involved in politics. But isn’t it the job of our institutions (globally & in our countries)?

I think the root of gender inequalities is inequality in general.

A society that promotes equality of chances for ALL its citizens (through free education, health- & childcare) wouldn’t need such a day.  If all couples could afford to go part-time in their job (if they wish to), the competition at work (and in life in general) wouldn’t be that fierce and we would be able to raise more relaxed, serene & self-confident children – as we would be able to make genuine life choices (between working/ being a stay-at-home mum/ or anything else). People will be more available to take care of their homes, families, communities and of the environment in general.

We need more cooperation, not more competition between human beings!

How to make your travel pictures alive

Hi,

Last weekend I discovered (not for the first time) a great way to make your travel pictures and share your memories more easily:

THE PHOTOBOOK

The pictures I saw were beautifully arranged, on a glossy paper and with text boxes for descriptions. I said to myself: Why didn’t I do that earlier?

I have thousands & thousands of digital pictures sleeping a hard drive or on the cloud. I only do a “best-of” folder of my trips and share it with a my close family when I come back from a trip. Then all the content I have is virtually dead.

Simply because looking at pictures on a screen is just soooo boring! It is much more fun & easier to have a book format and share with people around. On the other hand, classic photo album are a pain.

I decided to have a go on the site photobox.com: it is very simple, as you have ready layouts. The biggest work is to sort your collection. I look forward to receive my first book and share it around me!

Weekend in Rome

Hi!

I’m back from Rome. For a winter getaway, Rome is just the perfect city.

Mild weather (we could sip our coffee outside), not too crowded, and also good deals in clothes shops 🙂

Last xmas I had found good hotel prices at Hotel Ariston, nearby Termini Stazione. Definitely not the most appealing area of the city (but totally safe), but central and the room we stayed was surprisingly big! Very cosy and clean (with girly toiletry kit 😉

As we stayed only for a short weekend, we only discovered the city by walking. However the metro is a good option to save some energy (but not necessarily time as you will probably have to walk from the station to a particular sight)

When it comes to eating, trattoria are a good choice for lunch. Just choose what you want and you will have a panino freshly prepared in front of you!

Also, if you book a hotel that doesn’t include breakfast – don’t bother paying a €10 extra fee for hotel breakfast – especially as in most caffés you can get a coffee+a pastry for ca. €2.

At dinner, I was surprised that a reservation was needed in most of the restaurants we pushed the door (and it was 8pm, which is not late by Italian standards).

No museums for us this time, as we couldn’t afford to queue for hours in front of the Vatican (having made no reservation beforehand)