All posts by mariadam

"Pinay" is slang for a woman.born in the Philippines. I have been living in France for the last 12 years and taking photos is my passion. My husband and I move a lot, travelling and sometimes living from one European city to another. We live in Paris at the moment. I have been to so many cities but the City of Romance is still my favorite. I love to capture the everyday life of Europe particularly Paris and through this blog I would like to share my visual experiences with you. Enjoy and feel free to ask questions about the pictures.

De-stressing in Brussels

A very stressful work week, so how do you make the most out of your weekend… in Brussels?

GO SWIMMING!

– the best way to de-stress! i swear, i saw my hubby looking 10 years younger as soon as he got out of the water!

the public indoor pool is just a 15-minute walk from the flat. consider the walk as part of the exercise regime, also saves money on metro ticket! so while the hubby swam, i was in a room doing the stretching alongside other ladies.

by the way, for you parents out there, it’s really fun to take your little kids go swimming with you on weekends. how cute it is watching those daddies being hugged by their defenseless little girls and boys in the water… i cannot explain but try it and you will find out what i mean!

a family tip courtesy of mariadams

More about Belgium…..


If i am given a free one day holiday and asked to choose between Amsterdam and Brussels, I would choose Amsterdam because i just find it much much prettier, with its canals and bicycles and flowers markets and architecture (but bring your own food because Dutch food is tasteless!)

So okay, but you are sent by your company to attend a seminar in Brussels, might as well make the most out of it! The Grand Place and the few alleys surrounding it is the place to go. Go on a good sunny day (it’s mostly grey in this part of Europe) so you can take photos of the beautiful buildings on the square. Go back at night so you can watch the light and sound show where the town hall building lights up in different colours, dancing with the music of Bach, Mozart, etc.

Brussels can well take pride of its food! Eating is their favorite pastime and restaurants are simply everywhere even in small communities like where we live. Wall-to-wall dining is what they call of the narrow alleys just outside of the Grand Place, because both sides are packed with tables where diners are eating elbow-to-elbow, slurping their mussels accompanied by crispy french fries! Dining in Brussels is so much fun! At reasonable prices, you can get a 3-course meal, with accompanying “amuse-bouche” or appetizer served à la 5-star! On the other hand, if you are really scrimping on the Euros, go to Chinatown, behind the Marriott Hotel in town where you can find Hongkong style eateries.

Belgian chocolates – if the Swiss make tasty chocolates, I think the Belgians make them best!  Their famous snack is the “gaufre” or Belgian waffle dipped in chocolate.

And of course, their beer! I don’t really drink beer, after my first taste in high school of San Miguel beer, followed by some adventurous sip of Singha, Budweiser or Heineken… I swore..never again! but Leffe light…..it’s sooo mild for me! On a hot summer’s day, an icy cold Leffe soothes my thirst more than coke!

If you see the Stella Artois sign outside of bars, that is a Belgian beer!

 Belgian beer

Belgian beer

Talking Brussels

Guys, have you tried the Aquagym?

You should! it’s not only healthy, it’s fun! and for me, I can already feel the difference after one session!
The Sports Club is just a Metro stop away from our flat so today, I also went for the body-sculpting.

So for you all out there who just arrived in a place and don’t know what to do and don’t know anybody… the best start is to join activities like this. This is where you meet up people who eventually become your friends. Like today, at the changing room, parang United Nations, I already made friends with an American, a Belgian and a French.. all housewives!

Brussels – like London and Paris – is a very cosmopolitan city. Mas marami pa nga yata’ng foreigners kaysa sa Belgians! And there are many Asians, too – Chinese, Japanese, Thais, etc. Because this is the seat of the European Parliament and the NATO Headquarters, there are many diplomats living here, so many countries represented, and they bring their entire families too, hence the multi-cultural mix.

Last Sunday, we went to a Thai Festival held at a big square. Oh my gosh! we felt like we were in Bangkok that day! – the colourful costumes, the Thai dance, the Thai massage, the fruit and vegetable carving and most of all, Thai food and Thai delicacies! It’s been 5 years since our last Thai holiday and after seeing that place, we are raring to go back for a good long visit to our favorite Asian country again!

That day, the place was teeming with people! Belgian/European husbands came with their Asian or Thai wives and their cute mixed-looking children.  It’s amazing to be surrounded by Asians, makes me feel homesick!  A group of Asian looking people joined our table while husband and I were feasting on Tom Yan.  Then they were speaking in Tagalog! “Are you Filipino?” I asked. It turned out, they are from the Philippine Embassy based in Brussels. I asked if there is any plan to do a similar thing because this festival organized by the Thai Embassy is definitely a big success!  All the food kiosks are being queued up! They (the Phil Embassy people) said they are looking at preparing something for December, too bad! I am going to miss it!
 

Switzerland here we come!

Swiss flagRed cross flag

What’s the difference between the two images?

The first one is the Swiss flag sign….the second, the Red Cross sign.

The use of the red cross on a white background, which is actually the Swiss flag reversed, was granted to the International Red Cross to commemorate the organization founded by Henri Dunant, citizen of Geneva ([url]http://www.eda.admin.ch/washington_emb/e/home/geninf/flag.html[/url])

From the chaotic and un-landscaped Italian expressway, the scenery gradually changes into that of green rolling meadows, pine trees, farms that are spotlessly clean with their logs perfectly stacked up and of course, all those mountains that Switzerland is known for.We always saw Switzerland in her all-snow glory (and that I strongly advise that you visit it when the mountains are covered in snow…It’s magical! It’s like stepping into a postcard!)

Swiss

Switzerland in winter

This time – in October, which is still mild – the mountains are green with vegetation but dotted with the orange, yellow and red colours of trees that will soon shed their leaves in the winter.

You know that you are in Switzerland when you hear the tinkling of bells coming from cows. These bells which are hanging from cows’ necks have become a Swiss icon, similar to the cuckoo clock which originated from there. And you bet, we had seen so much cows in just one day, not only in the meadows but also within residential areas, practically peeking at someone else’s windows.  So if you think cattle is only prevalent in India, you are mistaken!

 lucerne

Lucerne in October

Because of the 3 countries bordering Switzerland (Liechtenstein is the 4th but too small to influence it – only 33,000 inhabitants in a 160sqkm of land) – France, Italy and Germany – the architecture, language,food, culture, etc change accdg to which region you are. We have been to French-influenced Montreaux, the German-influenced Zurich, the Italian-influenced Lugano and what a big variation of everything – as if Switzerland itself is really a part of France, a part of Germany, or a part of Italy but since it is not, the common denominator is ORDER – CLEANLINESS – PERFECTION – PRECISION! For example, those unmaintained-looking Renaissance architecture in Italy (which i find charming anyway) will be perfectly painted, no speck of stain whatsoever in Lugano, Switzerland. Maganda pa rin pero nawalan na ng Italian charm!

They have 4 official languages – German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, hence road/store/food/etc signs and labels are translated into 4, even 5 to include English!

We stopped in Lucerne and the first thing we noticed is the artistic nature of the people who have inhabited the place centuries ago. Most buildings in the old town are painted with frescoes!

swiss3

frescoes

swiss4

a village square

Did you know ….
– that all Swiss homes and public buildings like schools and hospitals have underground shelters where they can hide themselves in case of war or even a nuclear attack! that these shelters are well equipped with food, water and all necessary things for survival whilst underground.
– that all homes keep guns for self-protection. all able-bodied men between 20-30 are registered in the army and issued with a rifle in the event of an alert

Switzerland is a CASH society. Our visa/mastercards are mostly left unused except when withdrawing cash from ATM machines, but withdrawing is very limited as the minimum amount of choice are either 20 CHF (Swiss Franc) which is 16 USD or 100 CHF or 79 USD.
In getting into a shop, restaurant or a hotel, always look if the visa/mastercard/amex/JCB etc card signs are stuck by the door or window, if not, then you are most likely be asked to pay in cash!

Unlike in France, Italy and Belgium, fashion doesn’t seem to be a national pastime, at least in Lucerne. People here are dressed more for comfort rather than for the show.

We were looking forward to a nice meal. There are lots of international restaurants around the lake that it is very difficult to guess which one would be good. (I compare scouting for good restaurants to looking for a wife or a husband – sometimes you are lucky, sometimes you get so unhappy!)

Menus with their prices are displayed outside of restaurants. All prices are way too high, but since we are in Switzerland, we thought… “oh what the heck! let’s have a greal meal!” A nicely decorated Italian restaurant attracted our attention. Even the indoor decor was charming – with huge candle chandeliers and hanging pots of plants on the ceiling. We ordered lasagna and a half-bottle of red wine. When our order came, at the ridiculous price written on the menu, the plate (or shall i say the steel bowl where it was served was too disappointingly small for our hunger! ) The cheese was so overcooked it was almost melted rubber! and the taste of steel (on the bowl) seem to have gotten incorporated in the tomato sauce. it was so unpleasant, the ugliest lasagna i have ever had!

The waitress came and asked if the food is alright – without hesitation I said “NO! the cheese is like rubber!”

waitress: but i see that you have eaten it all!
me: because it is so expensive, i might as well finish it!
waitress: you could have told us, we could have given you another one!
me: oh really? ok, next time!

my husband swear that he saw her face getting red! that was the last time we saw the back of her. feeling that we are now getting ignored, we decided to go to the counter where we paid our bill.

Lesson of the story: Never eat around lakes, rivers etc of a big town. the food is usually crap and expensive! It’s usually the small family-run restaurants away from the crowd that offers very good value for your money.