Tuesday, 23 August 2016

France -> Italy Day Onze/Undici: Shall we dance?

So this brings me to the last post summarising my trip to France, I hope it hasn't been too boring for you, but then I didn't force you to read it all, you psycho. As I type this I'm getting pretty blue because going back to work after a relaxing vacation is always really hard. Anyway...

France -> Italy Day Onze/Undici
Having spent the night in the lovely Hotel B d'arcachon, we awoke bright and early for breakfast buffet at their little hotel cafe. Having walked around the previous evening, we spotted a few shops that we were keen to check out but were closed for the day. We decided to take the gamble and squeeze in a last minute shopping spree at 10am when the shops open, before heading to the airport at around 10.30am. YES. 30 mins of shopping. GO! We were both successful, I bought a pair of sandals and boo bought 2 pairs of sneakers.


Breakfast time!


We headed to the terminal for Easy Jet, bound for Milan, Italy and the drive to Bordeaux from Arcachon took about an hour and it was a relatively pain-free wait, although the terminal is tiny and the cafe was completely full so we just sat around waiting sans food and coffee. The flight back to Milan took about 2 hours, and due to the weird timings, we had to stay in Milan for a night, before flying off the next day. MAD REGRET. We should have stayed longer because boo loves Italian food and I would have liked to have seen more of Milan.

At the Malpensa airport, boo bought two return tickets for the bus that would take us to Centrale Station (our accommodation was nearby). The ride took about an hour, and the gloomy weather also persisted in Milan, sadly. We walked about 10 minute lugging our suitcases to Vitruvio 43 Apartments. This was very strange to me because the serviced apartment we were staying at was located in a large old building which also housed a hotel and a bunch of offices. It's weird to me that a hotel can take up maybe just a floor within a whole building.

Even their train station is baller

Park area near Centrale Station


Bllllaaaaaaaeeeeeeuuuuuaaaaagggghhhhhh

Anyway, we had some trouble getting in because the doors were locked and visitors had to be buzzed in, but there was no call button for Vitruvio. We ended up going in when some people left the building and then went to a small room the size of a broom closet that had like one desk, a phone, and a scanner, and a lady sitting behind the desk. The building was kind of dark and really old so as she led us to the room in which we'd stay down another corridor, I was thinking, "Omg this is where I die". However, I was pleasantly surprised because when we reached the apartment, the interior was modern, clean and very spacious. Plus, boo said it was like much cheaper than one night in Arcachon so that seems like a steal. Even though, I guess then you have to weigh the fact that you think you might die in the elevator or something. Also, the boo got bitten by mosquitoes that night (we had seen a few in the room) so that was kind of a bummer.


Sorry I hadn't switched on the lights when I took this




While we were advised to take the train, we decided to walk a good half hour or so to the Plaza Duomo. It started getting kind of drizzly and I was beginning to regret suggesting to walk there but as we were on the way past a hotel, we bumped into Nyle Dimarco so that basically made everything better.  Hot celebrity sighting. Yes please. I was in awe, and was doing an internal pig squeal the whole time I was waiting to take a photo with him (he was in conversation with a deaf family and I really wished I knew sign language so I could join in the party because they were all truly pleased to have bumped into him).

PIG SQUEAL



Beautiful gothic architecture

At Plaza Duomo, we hit up the hugest Prada store I've ever seen. It was seriously such a beautifully designed store. The store was gigantic, and it was just for the women (the men's section was in a store across the plaza) and it even had abasement level where we made payment. However, I had heard from friends that staff tend to be really unfriendly and this turned out to be true. They were really aloof and barely looked at me when I walked in but I guess it kinda fits the vibe of such a cool place.



Secret basement of wonder

We'd also been advised to go to Rinascente, a department store, where we could buy Italian food produce and wander around. Rinascente was kind of a disappointment to me because I thought it'd be bigger, but the food section seemed surprisingly small, and the ceiling was really low, giving the already crowded place, an even squashier feel. Nonetheless, we stocked up on crazy amounts of olive oil, some cheese, and some truffle oil. Mmmm.

Chocolate shoes, you guys.



 
After some wandering, we headed for Risoelatte, a 60s style Italian diner that had pretty decent ratings on Trip Advisor. Dinner service apparently opens at 8.30pm and we were starving by then which explains what happened next... Between the two of us, we had FOUR mains, including a mandatory 2 person serving of risoelatte with cheese and speck, tortellini with ricotta, and spaghetti vongole. I really enjoyed the risoelatte and tortellini, but I think no one enjoyed the whole meal more than the boo. In his words (after tucking into the vongole), "mmm... mmm...Divine... Poseidon... King of the sea". 





Yup. Part of the decor. Or maybe the owner's laundry.


Risoelatte - tastes better than it looks

Tortellini yummyness

Poseidon with his winning meal

Tiramisu

after meal coffee is a must!

After an extremely filling dinner, we walked towards the train station and took a train from the Plaza back to Centrale Station. The absolute best thing about taking the train was that they allow dogs in the train so I made a friend on the ride back. Absolute heaven.

Hello cutie!

Plaza Duomo in nightfall - even chioer!

A big apple near Centrale Station

The next day we took the bus service early back to Malpensa airport and in the direction towards the airport, but beyond it, was beautiful mountain terrain which really made me miss the Dolomites. The longing to extend the vacation was overwhelming!

So this brings me to the end of the vacation to France and a little of Italy. I hope you've enjoyed reading about this. Can't wait till the next one!

Sad to go byebye
 
Key learnings:
  • Shops in Arcachon DO open on a Sunday between 10am to 10.30am. YAY!
  • The terminal for Easy Jet in Bordeaux is really small and hard to get a seat at the cafe so go early or go having already had your meal
  • There's kind of a lot of dog poop in Milan so watch your step!
  • The Vitruvio serviced apartment doesn't come with water, and doesn't have an electric kettle so we tried to boil some and it left a really weird film on top of the water so the boo ended up going out and buying mineral water. Bring your own water! 
  • If you want to eat at Risoelatte, if you haven't made a reservation, go early. But if you can't make it early, then make a reservation. We saw the waitress turn away two large groups who looked really sad.
  • As with most places, you can get tax refunds on branded goods, and they help you fill out the forms which you then bring to the airport VAT refund counters. There's a counter before you check in and the queue was phenomenally long. I guess you really have to go early. However, that's really for goods that you intend to check-in. There was a way less long queue at the counter beyond check-in, but I believe that's for items that you have in your hand-carry. Although they didn't end up checking.  
  • Don't forget that you need to go through immigration! So the boo and I went past the security point where we went through the scanners and whatnot and entered the main area filled with shops and food so obviously we started shopping again (we bought over 200 Euro of food from the airport). Then around the time when our gate was closer to closing, we headed towards the gate, and BOOM. Immigration. We forgot that we hadn't even gone through immigration. I had a slight panic attack but it was really efficient and we managed to get onto the plane with some time to spare (although we were one of the last on I think). 
  • Don't buy buffalo mozarella from the airport. It won't last the journey. Trust me.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

GO SINGAPORE!




Top & shorts: from France (Similar here) | Shoes: ASOS | Bag: Kate Spade | Necklace: Topshop (Similar here)

So I think it's safe to say that most of us here in Singapore are experiencing fervent national pride because not only did our nation just turn 51 (happy birthday, you saucy broad), we've also just witnessed the first Singaporean to ever win an Olympic* gold medal - Yup, if you've been living under a rock, welcome back - Joseph Schooling, a 21 year boy man just snagged the gold in the 100m butterfly event. Besides setting a new Olympic, Asian and national record, he beat human-torpedo-fish Michael Phelps who has so many Olympic medals he could probably make at least twenty Poseidon spears out of them. And he totally should because that would be dope. He could use the remainder to make a throne.

My Facebook timeline seems as if I've joined a Joseph Schooling fan club so I've seen a couple of great interviews and stories. One that caught my eye was about a bunch of people leaving negative comments about how he's not really Singaporean since he spent most of his formative years in the states training and going to school and all that.

In the same vein, Rihanna's from Barbados but her work was produced in the states. Do you think Barbadians are all "Nahhh she ain't one of us. B*tch better have my money" NO. Because that would be weird. Ok that might not be the best comparison because I'm really exhausted right now so maybe not the same vein after all.

I just think that the idea of nationality goes much deeper than what race a person is, or what accent they speak with, or where they study. It's a confluence of all those things and more, but most importantly, it's also about personal belief. If he is proud to call himself a Singaporean (I am assuming he hasn't said he's not), who are you (nameless faceless anonymous internet person) to deny him that, and who are you to deny your countrymen who are happy to embrace him with open arms this small joy?

Anyway, I'm not angry or ranting. I see the other side of the coin, I recognise that we may not have really been part of the secret sauce that produced this Schooling magic, but nonetheless, in the spirit of the Olympics, let's not squabble over this, let's gather to rejoice in the great sporting achievements, ogle the hotties with the bodies, and marvel at the fact that teenagers are reaching the maximum of the body's potential while most of us struggle to put on our pants in the morning.

MAJULAH SINGAPURA!

* Let's also take the time to recognise that Singaporean Yip Pin Xiu won gold in backstroke for the Paralympics though. Champs all around!

Monday, 8 August 2016

France Day Dix: Au Revoir Family

Bonjour! I've had a vacation in France and now for the travel diary because my memory is terrible so I need to recap it all. This was a family vacation to catch the Euro Cup (So apparently it's just called Euro which is weird no? Isn't that also singular of the currency? Unless football skills = currency. In which case, I'd be VERY POOR) courtesy of my aunt and uncle, without them, this trip wouldn't have happened.

France Day Dix
We awoke bright and early to send Nommie (along with the aunt's and uncle's luggage) to the Bordeaux airport because he was flying off with them to head back to London (they were taking the other car). I gotta say, I'm pretty sad just thinking about this because I'm rather attached to my cousin, and also it signals the end of the vacation (boooo).

As we were going to be catching the Belgium vs. Ireland Euro Cup match, we quickly drove near to the stadium in Bordeaux to grab a quick lunch before the match. You know those places along highways, like rest stops with lousy restaurants and whatnot? Yeah we ended up at one of those places. The fine establishment we came across is called Del Arte, I guess it serves Italian food like akin to Pizza Hut. I'm not complaining though, I love Pizza Hut. I had a lasagna while the boo had a seafood vongole. Clearly he had the mad food envy.


Mmmm mediocre lasagna

After lunch, we walked about 20 minutes to get to the stadium - The Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux is a fancy almost brand new (opened in May 2015) stadium that is quite an architectural beauty. There appeared to be an almost equal amount of Belgian and Irish fans and everyone seemed in high spirts, there was a lot of singing and cheering and my main gripe was as I stood in the crowd waiting to be frisked, I just felt really short.

Hey shawty

Ohhh so it IS just Euro

What a beauty

Artistic shot, yes?




The seats we got were just FANTASTIC. I think we were seated in the corporate sponsored seating area so it had an equal mix of fans from both sides, as well as some neutrals (like me - I equally support all teams as long as they have a good mix of handsome men). Our seats were right in front of those fancy glass rooms where rich people have lunch before the game. The stadium's seats were quite well spaced out, and there was lots of room for me to stand up, walk and bounce around taking photos. The match itself was awesome, with Belgium scoring 3 goals within the second half (like almost immediately), and the Belgian fans were incredibly excited. The commentator would announce who scored the goal, by loudly announcing the player's first name, and the fans would shout out the player's surname as if they were chant-shouting. ROMELU.... LUKAKUUUUUUU!!!!!


Fancy box seats just above us

St Patrick's day continues

I like to imagine these two guys sitting together doing arts and crafts

The view from our seats

Hello Bordeaux
Some serious manspreading going on. (Courtesy of a European stranger)

After the match, with our family having all departed, we headed to Arcachon, a beachside town about an hour from Bordeaux. We checked into Hotel Le B d'arcachon and then strolled along the beach towards Au Pique Assiete for dinner. I think the food was so-so. I had a set menu of salad, white fish and panna cotta dessert which was alright, while the boo ordered some pork thing that made me think of SQ airplane food. I didn't bother with the panna cotta too because I already had my mind made up to go to La Saison 2, a really purple and pink gaudily-designed cafĂ© which served yummy crepe. MMM. There was a restaurant near La Saison 2 that actually looked like it was frequented by locals - I don't know what it's called and Google Earth View is just making me feel dizzy. I feel like we should have dined there instead for dinner!

Pretending it felt like summer - it was probably 12 degrees celsius

 


The cutest sand art
Not strange at all

Beautiful evening but so cold brrrr
Au Pique Assiete






Welcome to the groovy 70s


I think this was very much my aesthetic when I was 12

OMNOMNOMNOM

Key learnings:
  • Don't order vongole at an "Italian" joint. Save it for Italy. Order something easy like lasagna and you'll never be disappointed.
  • Belgium has a pretty good soccer team and apparently quite a few of them play in the English Premier League. Is this important? Who knows?
  • The stadium in Bordeaux is currently named Matmut Atlantique - I guess it's a sponsorship thing but sorry Matmut, it ain't work for you. I don't recall seeing your name anywhere. Zero brand recognition.
  • The firm behind the architecture of the stadium is Herzog & de Meuron, who also did the Beijing Olympic Stadium. It must feel wonderful to be able to see your work come to life and be appreciated on such a grand scale. What am I doing with my life??
  • Don't trust always trust Trip Advisor - I read about Au Pique Assiete on TA and it was MEH
  • The Arcachon beach is COLD and the winds are really strong. Don't be a hero like me and try to wear beach type clothes.
  • It is really great to be a woman who needs to pee during a soccer/sporting match because there are fewer women and loads of cubicles. Also, not as dirty as one would image.
  • LUKAAAAAKKKKUUUUUUUUUU
Thanks for reading!