10 Things I Learned After Living in Switzerland

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Time goes so fast indeed.  I remember how I would constantly remind myself that I won’t be able to stay long in Switzerland.

Three months was enough.  Then I got a job.  Okay, two more months. Then came six more, then a year, and least than I expected, I was able to live in Switzerland for surprisingly four long years!

I took that giant leap out of my comfort zone.  Since then, things have never been the same again.

Away from my home country, living in Switzerland has taught me a lot and changed me in so many ways.  True enough, you’ll get a better understanding of yourself and what surrounds you, once you expand your horizon.

There’s actually a wealth of life lessons I can take with me, especially now that I moved to live in another country.  And there are things that Filipinos back home can also learn from the people of the Alps. Read more

My Great Taste in 2014

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Fifteen dishes in my Cooking Diaries.
A few more unpublished recipes. Tried, tested and prevailed.
Summer holiday guests. Belgian mussels in season. Cebu lechon.
More meat and seafood, pastas and rice, cheeses and wines…

This is how I describe my cooking and food adventures in a nutshell for 2014.

Cebu & Dumaguete Food Bliss.   Mahal and I devoured over the smoky red, crispy Cebu lechon at Zubuchon.  Our first sutukil experience would have lost our appetite, but a special and sumptuous dinner buffet at Mactan Shangri-la’s Tides saved the day. Our Visayan food adventure didn’t end in Cebu. We’re lucky to spot some good restaurants in Dumaguete that were not only serving delicious dishes but also at unbelievably reasonable price. Read more

On the Go in 2014

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Somehow I’ve anticipated that I’d be in hiatus again. Yet a two-month worth of time (or three, almost) that just guiltlessly went by didn’t seem to be fair. As I’d put it, there’s a blackhole; between the days my husband and I spent our holidays and the time we settled in to our new home.

For weeks we ‘d been living out of our suitcases. I’m considerably an avid traveler, but then I realized that I cannot remain a nomad for a long time. I still felt the need for a home base. What’s even more, we also had to move our stuff over the thick snow at zero temperature.

Anyhow, I’m relieved that we have settled in to our new home at last, and I’m steadily getting back to my routine. We made it and we did well. So yes, you heard me right. It’s finally au revoir, Suisse. And hallo, België! Read more

Birthday Dinner: Auberge de l’Union

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My husband surprised me with a fancy dinner at Auberge de l’Union in Arzier on my birthday. Well, we had been trying to come up with a surefire excuse to visit this restaurant for a long time, even though in fact, it is not so far from our place. So far for this year, we’ve already celebrated two special occasions somewhere else – his birthday at 2-star Michelin Nuance and our Valentine’s day at the top of Jungfrau. At the same time, whenever we go hiking around and pass by it, we’d sometimes start talking about this restaurant, which would leave me relentlessly curious about. Then come my birthday, and me, the celebrant got lazy to organize. It’s such the best timing for hubby to take me to this quaint, classy resto I had sought out for quite some time.

Fortunately a weekday as well, the restaurant wasn’t hectic and full of people dining. At the same time, we got the best spot where we have the view of Lake Geneva. As always, we immediately glanced through the menu and we both liked to take the restaurant’s gastronomic 4-course menu with wine pairing and cheese plates. I requested for a different dessert though, and I was pleased that they granted it. Overall, it was exquisitely good.

So here’s what we got. No photo of delectable cheeses on a tray though, I just really got so mesmerized.

saumon d’Écosse fumé par nos soins, sur un velouté de choux fleur, Caviar d’Aquitaine, trait de fenouil, vinaigrette de noisette

smoked Scottish salmon, a velvety cauliflower, Caviar d’Aquitaine, fennel, hazelnut vinaigrette

sot l’y laisse de volaille en chapelure de Truffe, émincé de poireaux, sablé parmesan, balsamique

chicken in breadcrumbs with truffles, sliced ​​leeks, parmesan shortbread, balsamic

Filet de bœuf Charolais grillé, racines et légumes oubliés, jus de cuisson Safrané et citron confit

Charolais beef tenderloin grilled, roots and forgotten vegetables, saffron juices and lemon confit

Brownies au chocolat, glace vanille des Îles Bourbon, miel de Truffe et sucre filé

Chocolate brownies, Bourbon island vanilla ice cream, honey truffle and spun sugar

Brioche version « pain perdu », sucre cannelle, figue braisée au porto et épices sorbet cacao agrumes

Brioche version of “toast” cinnamon sugar, braised fig port wine and spices cocoa citrus sorbet

My 10 Most Unforgettable Travels in 2013 (1 of 2)

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I have been lucky nonetheless for being able to visit more countries in 2013. To date, I’ve got a total of 19 countries and over a hundred cities and towns. In 2013, I was able to add 9 new countries and over 20 new cities on my list, which is quite a lot by the way, compared to previous years of my traveling spree. Lucky me.

Another too, I just found a new travel buddy – my husband. And lucky boy, he’s been to over 50 countries all throughout his life. So that perhaps explains why I’m more inspired to travel around and discover more new places. It might be also my competitive side that’s secretly wanting to beat his high travel score, too!

So yes, 2013 is the year that I finally got hitched, to the man I love who is apparently a genuine travel junkie. Truth is, our travels this year are comprised of events that somewhat led us to take our relationship to the next level – settling down to eventually start a family we’ll call our own. In most weekends, my husband and I would spend quality time together visiting nearby places such as Lyon and Interlaken. As we visited other places in Switzerland and France, I also started meeting his friends. Last August, we went to Belgium for me to meet his family and friends. By the following month, we got married in Denmark and went to Italy for our honeymoon. Then by December, we flew to the Philippines for him to meet my family and friends, and to get to know more about my home country as well.

My travel moments have just gotten better this 2013, and here are the 10 most memorable times.

1. Savoring the gastronomic capital of France – Lyon

Lyon must have been popular as home for the greatest classic 3-star Michelin restaurants in France – Paul Bocuse, Troisgros, Georges Blanc, Anne-Sophie Pic, Alain Chapel and La Pyramide. Nevertheless, the good way to enjoy traditional Lyonnaise cuisines is through visiting this type of restaurant they call as bouchon. From its hefty menu in a very reasonable price, I was able to enjoy salade Lyonnaise, fatty escargots, Andouillette, duck pâté, and French wines coming from Rhone and Burgundy regions.

As it is also the second largest Renaissance city after Venice, Lyon is rich in culture and history. And it is very evident when we strolled around Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse. For a panoramic view of Lyon, we went up to Fourvière. Then I went to Presqu’île to do what most women like doing. Believe me or not, shopping in Lyon was intoxicating. There were lots of interesting finds, yet less expensive than in Switzerland.

For all the gastronomy, sightseeing and shopping experience, it is worth visiting Lyon all over again.

2. Champagne tasting in Reims and mustard picking in Dijon

I’d always associate Dijon as a mustard kind, which is true enough that the best mustard in the world originated here. But little I did know about Reims, until we got invited for some champagne tasting activity in this city.

Nowadays, Reims, along with Epernay and Ay, is one of the big producers of champagne. Many of les grandes marques (champagne-producing houses) have its headquarters in Reims. And of course, who wouldn’t miss the infamous Dom Pérignon? While I was starting to get tipsy as we’re “tasting” wines, er, champagnes, I had a rare opportunity to visit the abbey where the monk peacefully lies. But then, I met and tasted Henri Giraud. I got infatuated to it right away, without knowing how expensive it would be, I still bought a bottle to bring home.

After a few days in Reims, my husband and I visited Dijon next. In this Burgundian city, I bought all the Dijon mustards I can carry home. Here I also had my first taste of beef bourguignon, with a tray full of cheeses to boot, for our sheer delight.

3. Road trip to Avenches, Thun, Spiez, Interlaken and Bern

I personally enjoyed the trip in this side of Switzerland. We spent the whole day visiting these nice towns namely, Avenches, Thun and Spiez. We were able to see a Roman amphitheatre in Avenches, the downstream of Aar river that flows majestically out of Lake Thun, and the historic castle in Spiez. We arrived in Interlaken and decided to stay for a couple of days. It could have been perfect except for the rainy weather that didn’t entice us to go up and visit the “top of Europe,” the Jungfrau. Going back home, we passed by Bern and I was glad to meet the Bernese bears and see the medieval Zytglogge clock tower.

4. Getting to know my second home, Belgium

It was not only meeting his family and friends, but also was an opportune time to get to know my hubby’s home country – Belgium that is. I was eagerly anticipating a visit to a frite kot (“Belgian fries stand”) but for some unknown reasons, my husband seemed to be diverting my attention to something else, which appeared to be much more interesting anyway. Going around Mechelen, I found colorful 16th century houses, the palace of Margaret of Austria, old nunneries and convents, the rustic Het Anker Brewery, and a carillon concert. Then in Antwerp, I found the statue of hand-thrower hero Brabo standing in front of 16th-century guild houses, the adventurous Tintin and the gang, Nelo and Patrasche, its beautiful central train station, and house of diamonds from which we bought our wedding rings.

Then this December, we spent Christmas with my husband’s family in Belgium. During our stay, I was also able to visit Brussels for the first time. Of course, I couldn’t skip seeing the Mannekin Pis and a freebie, the Jannekin Pis too!

Yet still, no frite kot. Anyhow, I can always look forward to it, just the same as I excitingly look forward to seeing myself with a new life in Belgium.

5. Tying the knot in Aeroskobing, Denmark

We took the smell of Nordic romance, uncomplicated and free, and embraced Denmark as the wedding place to be. We chose Aeroskobing, a quiant, peaceful island-village that is full of maritime past. Days before the wedding, we stayed in Copenhagen . My first taste of anything Danish started here in this sophisticated capital city.

It’s a must for every first-time visitor to take a canal cruise in Copenhagen. It’s also a great way to do sightseeing while experiencing a genuine maritime atmosphere. After the canal boat tour, we started strolling around until we finally reached the beautiful stretch of Nyhavn, to take more photos and grab a beer or two.

Then off we went to melancholic Aeroskobing where we finally tied the knot as Mr and Mrs. Definitely, we’re onto a new journey in our lives.

My top 10 memorable travels list continues on my next post. Read on here – My Top 10 Most Unforgettable Travels in 2013 (Part 2).

Traditional European Christmas Market Scenes

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Visiting traditional Christmas markets is one of the fascinating things to do in Europe during the Christmas holidays. Compared to the holiday shopping experience back home in the Philippines, here it can be less busy and crazy. Actually expect a bit more of rustic feel, as wooden houses line up beautifully along the streets that are selling unique goodies, which are quite ideal as Christmas gifts. Some even offer fresh and warm, traditional winter delicacies that entice visitors to stay despite the almost freezing temperature outside the streets.

All throughout December last year, my husband and I went out for a few road trips, passing by Christmas street markets on every town in every country we visit, hoping I can discover how unique one Christmas market is over the other. We visited the Christmas markets in Luzerne and Montreux in Switzerland, Bregenz in Austria, Vaduz in Liechtenstein and Brussels in Belgium.

LUZERNE, Switzerland. What I like the most about Christmas markets is food shopping. I enjoy discovering different delicacies, especially those I have never tasted before. The night Christmas market in Luzerne was a win for me. Every wooden shop offer food specialties from their own respective countries. For our aperitifs (starters), we visited mother Russia to take two shots of vodka; and Portugal to have bacalhao fried balls and egg tarts. It kept me happy as we continued strolling along the old town’s streets of Luzerne.

Luzerne’s old wooden bridge was beautifully gleaming at the mist that night, while the streets of the old town are adorned with the usual sparkling lights and decorations for the holidays. Seldom you’d ever find Swiss streets filled with people wandering around especially at night, but that night the old town of Luzerne was indeed extra magical.

MONTREUX, Switzerland. Or Montreux Noël, it is the annual Christmas market in Montreux that is considerably the biggest and most festive in Swiss Riviera. Over a hundred fully-lighted and decorated chalets along the quays of Geneva’s Lake participated this year, offering a vast array of interesting finds. Small restaurants and food stores are scattered all around. When it gets dark, you’ll find the ferris wheel all lit-up and standing majestically, beautiful lights in every wooden store, and a well-crafted Christmas tree at the suspended platform in the quay with lighted balloons staying afloat by the lake.

The life-sized statue of Freddie Mercury is situated just between the big ferris wheel, and the Christmas tree and floating balloons straddling along the Geneva lake. He would have been so pleased to see all these.

Enchanting Christmas lights. Dolls and eggs from Russia. All colorful indeed.

Specialty foods, kiddie rides and special finds, most of the things we discovered can be traditionally found here in Switzerland. Here I also had my first vin chaud, a red wine served hot that is traditionally made at this time of the year. Also called as gluhwein in German that literally means “glow wine,” it primarily consists of red wine, cinnamon, clove and cardamom (or ginger). Compared to the other one in Luzerne, Montreux Christmas market has more Swiss vibe.

VADUZ, Liechtenstein and BREGENZ, Austria. We were about to visit my husband’s friend who lives in the German side of Switzerland when we also decided to make short visits to Liechtenstein and Austria. I got excited with the idea that I’d be visiting two new countries in a day. I even got more pleased when Vaduz and Bregenz welcomed me with their Christmas markets absolutely open for visitors at daylight.

By then I started to say, “Oh the usuals…” Particularly when I came to see arrays of Christmas decors, traditional delicacies and holiday gift prospects, and yet a fun-filled skating rink with a view of the royal castle situated at the mountaintop in Vaduz and two real donkeys in a manger at Bregenz got me all so fascinated over again.

BRUSSELS, Belgium. Two nights to go before Christmas eve, my husband and I, together with his longtime friend who also brought his wife and two children along, went to meet each other again and see Brussels together. My first visit to Brussels suddenly brought me a slight sense of comfort when I began to hear people uttering French in almost every corner. We’d just left the Flemish side of Belgian town, though no offense, Flemish is just an entirely different language I’m still unfamiliar with.

Thanks maybe to Christmas rush, but it was also fascinating to see the historic capital city this lively and vibrant, particularly at the Grand Place – Grote Markt, as it added more life to expectedly ravishing centuries old buildings. Then off we went to the “symbol of Belgium,” the Manneken Pis. I’ve already got a backgrounder about this boy statue so I wasn’t expecting that much. And yeah, it might not be as big as it should have been, but boy, look how it endlessly pees in a bottomless pit.

As we walked further to explore the town, we started coming in to the busiest Christmas market I’ve ever been so far. Lots of wooden stalls filled with interesting goodies and delicacies, entertaining street performers and fun carnival rides for kids can be all found here. And lots, lots of people around too!

It’s officially Christmas.

Delicious Belgian waffles are just everywhere, and also different, interesting food finds go abounty.

It’s a more carnival feel in the Christmas market in Brussels. There are street performers and carnival games for kids and adults alike.

A beautiful merry-go-round it is, seriously.

And big ferris wheel sitting pretty at night, it adds more spectacular Christmas feel in Brussels.