Sunday, 31 August 2014

Wrap Up

Hello and a happy Sunday!

In less than an hour, I jump on my train back to Reims where I will study for my last year of my bachelors degree. The end of summer holidays signifies an end for summer in my eyes. Actually, I am ready for autumn - for layering, for classical music, for tea and cookies. To finish this great month appropriately, I thought to come back to my little summer resolutions. I am more than happy to announce that there is only one single point that I didn't accomplish.
  1. Going on a tour around Lake Geneva. Whether it might be by bike or by car, it has been 5 years that I have missed this option.
    - CHECK, I toured 180 km by car with my Mom
  2. Remembering my great trip to South-East Asia thanks to this delicious Thai curry recipe.
    - CHECK, even my brother liked it :-)
  3. Choosing my favourite images of my immense photo stock in order to make a collage for my room in university.
    - CHECK, I will share the new decoration idea once I've installed the collage. 
  4. Compiling a short list of universities/ business schools that I apply for my master's degree.
    - CHECK. It's getting serious and I will share the place I move to once I am accepted. 
  5. Exploring Spain in a total new way. Instead of hotel resorts on the Canary Islands or other major touristic places, it is time to discover Spain's real treasures.
    - CHECK, here's my post about Madrid and Oliva
  6. Visiting the Aiguille de Midi in the French Alps. With two friends stopping by in August this touristic adventure shouldn't be a leftover anymore, should it?
    - FAIL. I unfortunately didn't make it yet I went hiking a couple of times and enjoyed the view on the Mont Blanc. 
  7. Preparing this summer cocktail for a little cocktail party on our terrace.
    - CHECK, although I didn't go for the exact same cocktail but due to a huge stock of Absolut Vodka, I checked out their recipes. 
  8. After having tasted home made bread every single day in Iceland, I came to the conclusion to bake some different kinds myself from now on. Do you know some nice recipes?
    - CHECK. 
  9. Subscribing for a class at Coursera in order to broaden my horizon. I plan to choose a non-business topic.
    - CHECK, I am nearly "graduating" in Entrepreneurship and think that online classes are a great way to enlarge know-how. 
  10. Updating my iPhone with friends' current addresses. Every time I send postcards I must scroll through ancient Whatsapp messages in which we once exchanged them. For best friends this procedure takes hours and is simply too annoying with all the trips I do. Moreover, as I have lots of friends who frequently change their addresses, I am planning to design a lovely online version - I keep you updated.
    - CHECK, a friend in Vancouver received my first online postcard and I managed to update my iPhone. 
That's it for today as I must rush a little for my train. Everyone who is also going back to uni this week: I wish you a great start and all the luck for another new chapter!

Fresh bread is a routine that I will include into my daily life.
180 km around the lake (here on the French South side)
Back of the postcard (in German) - how do you like it?
Another shot from the Swiss Alps
Thai curry

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Open your eyes

Happy Sunday!

Discovering your home country is a thing that we ignore by far too often. We travel around the world, to exotic destinations and forget to explore the beauty that simply is a stone throw away. Thus, I took the opportunity during the week to drive through beautiful Switzerland in order to find stunning landscapes at the end of narrow valleys and to jump into crystal clear water by the end of the day. Add the delicious picnics on top of the mountains and chocolate bars for dessert and you keep asking yourself: Why on earth do I book flights to the end of the world?

Switzerland's capital: Bern
Swiss heritage
View on the Old Town of Bern
Gruyère - famous for its cheese
Mountains are a must
And what would be Switzerland without cows... and chocolate? 

Take this post as this week’s motivation to look outside and to appreciate the place you live in. Every part on this planet has its treasures that only have to be discovered. Believe me, you will be pretty astonished what you will find!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Madrid - live a different rhythm

One of my best friends studies in Madrid which was the perfect opportunity for me to jump on a plane to actually travel to the "real" Spain for the first time. No hotel resorts, no islands, no tennis courts - just a city with elegant and proud people that I admire for their resistance against the heat. 40°C during five days killed me which is why we spontaneously squeezed in a two day escape to the beach village of Oliva at the Mediterranean Sea.

  • I stayed at my friend's place in the Chueca district that turned out to be a really hip district with lovely little bars that were to be discovered during the night. It used to be a criminal part of the city, but is now known for its high density of homosexuals. I had a look on airbnb and fell in love with this apartment (or this... or this...or... well there are too many!) for example. If you are as stupid as I am to choose August for your visit, then I highly recommend a place with a pool. 
  • In Oliva we stayed at Ana's place. We were four girls and had an amazing time in this apartment. Although you need a car to reach the beach (5 minutes drive), I would go back to the apartment instantly since it is perfectly furnished and Ana even prepared breakfast for us. Thumbs up! 

  • As a sucker for all sweet things, I couldn't go to Spain without having some traditional churros. And well, even if it's a very touristic spot, San Ginés totally convinced me. Their churros are slightly thin and come with a dark hot chocolate to dip into. 
  • The restaurant chain 100 Montaditos can be found throughout the city and is famous for its special offers. We went there on Monday when you get the second Montadito (a sort of little sandwich) for only 0.50 € and on Wednesday their whole menu is at 1 € - even the refreshing beer!
  • Another very touristic spot is the Mercado San Miguel which is totally worth a visit. Try typical Spanish Jamón (ham), a local beer or a frozen yogurt - which is THE dessert in Madrid this summer. 
  • Speaking of frozen yogurt, I found another concept that intrigued me a lot: Happiness Station Frigo at the Gran Via. Besides standard ice cream, they offer properly designed ice cream. I talked with the brand manager for nearly an hour and love their concept which is actually cheaper than all the frozen yogurt places around. 
  • Less touristic and more exclusive than the San Miguel Market is certainly the Mercado San Anton. Once again, I loved strolling through the stalls and climbing the stairs until I found myself on their rooftop terrace which has this relaxed atmosphere where I enjoyed sipping my cocktail. 

  • As a newer and hipper place, the area around Chueca is the spot for bar hopping. Don't forget that Spanish people only have dinner at 11 PM and don't go out before midnight. Oh yes, I certainly had my issues to adapt to this lifestyle... my metabolism as well. How can you have lunch at 5 PM?
  • Circulo de Bellas Artes is the roof top bar in the middle of Madrid where young professionals like to meet up after work while gazing at the large city of Madrid. Lounge music, white sofas and a restaurant part complement the terrace. 

  • Since Inditex is present throughout the entire city, it was a certain must for me to stroll through Bershka, Pull&Bear, Mango and Zara. The Zara on the Gran Via (as well as the H&M) are located in impressive chic buildings, but I actually prefer their shops in the Calle Fuencarral. 
  • If you need a present, I highly recommend the Ale-Hop shop. You will find so many fun elements that serve as great accessories for your next costume party. 

Escapes and Activities
  • As most locals, I went to the Retiro Park, where you cannot only find a lake (with rowing boats!) but also a crystal palace which is based on the English original that used to be in the Hyde Park. A little bit of English home makes me feel welcome wherever I am...
  • Madrid is pretty dead in August since all locals escape to nearby beaches. Generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of lying in the sand for hours but the Mediterranean Sea was so clean in Oliva, that even I enjoyed my beach trip since I could stay in the water for ages.
  • As the sun sets in the West, the temple of Debod (an Egyptian temple) is THE location to capture the hypnotizing colours of the sky. 
  • Just take a look at the buildings' facades. I feel as if I was in an amusement park as they look so perfect with their powerful colours and tiny balconies.  
  • Until now, I always imagined catholic churches in Spain overloaded with decoration. Well, once I visited the Almudena cathedral in front of the King's palace, I was persuaded that there are different styles - the cathedral presents itself in a clean yet monumental way. 

Personal highlight
  • The sunset at the Circulo de Bellas Artes. The mesmerizing shades of yellow and orange that bathed the city into a golden glow are not only lovely photo motifs but represent this single moment of the day when Madrid starts to calm down a little. 

What are your must sees in Madrid?

See what I mean about facades?
Don Quijote
Plaza Major
Parque de Madrid: Retiro
I ask myself when a guy rows such a boat for me.
Town Hall with Cibeles Fountain
Did I talk about facades?
Yumm. San Ginés churros since 1894.
View from the Circulo de Bellas Artes at night on the Plaza de Cibeles. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Oh Baby it's cold outside

Happy (belated) Sunday!

Having once again explored the beauty of the Swiss Alps during the weekend, I only now find a little bit of time to calm down and write this quick post update for you. At least it is Sunday and I feel this certain obligation to shoot a quick 'hi' to the online world. It’s been a week full of rain that made me wonder where summer has been. Not that I crave for temperatures beyond the 30° C mark, but I would wish for a warmer breeze. Instead of cosy summer nights on the terrace, I am sitting in bed with a cold.

I was lucky enough that my heart and mind is still filled with the warm summer atmosphere that I could soak up during my trip to Spain. Originally, I planned to share these memories with you today, but I couldn't find the time to prepare any worthy post which is why I have to postpone this step to later this week. Nonetheless, I wanted to quickly wish you a great start into the week and assure you that I will be back on track once I feel better and full of energy. I have plenty things to tell you!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Toast Time

Tomato-walnut pesto with flavoured beef, tomatoes, lettuce and Italian herbs

I am not a fan to jump on the bandwagon but I do with today’s post: Toasts.
Actually, I would have never thought to dedicate an entire post to a slice of bread although toast has always played an important role in my life: I usually start my day with 2 slices, well spread with strawberry jam (like my child hero Paddington bear). In school, my mom often packed toast sandwiches into my lunch bag that I then found soaked through by mayonnaise by time of lunch.

Lately, toasts have really boomed. You find them on more and more restaurant menus and there is not a single food blogger who hasn't written about toast. Last week my friends and I decided to come together in order to cook – well, WHAT was actually the question. So I came up with the ideas of toasts that everyone appreciated lively. We compiled our favourite combos with a variety of ingredients.

Veggie: honey mustard, cucumbers and cranberries
Sweet: home made apricot jam, nectarine slices and crumbled LION flakes

Hungry now? Based on our great night that we accompanied with some sparkling wine, I compiled the following (non exhaustive) ingredients in order to help you to make your toast. As we did, I’d rather go for one ingredient from each category to fully provoke a taste explosion. What's your favourite combo? If you want, you can leave a comment with your ideas to inspire each other to try new creations.
Bon appétit!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Summer cliche

Good morning my dears,

Sun, lake, BBQ, friends, endless talks until the early morning - I am speaking of my personal summer cliché. Guess what my week was like! The first week back home has totally fulfilled (or maybe even surpassed) my expectations of a blissful summer and reached their highlight last night with the annual Geneva fireworks.
It feels good to have a place where you can relax without feeling remorseful and every year the same people come together. It is only then that you realize how fast a year passes by and how lucky you are that you have such close friends.
The best thing about last week is actually that I have another three weeks to come until I have to go back to uni. Three weeks with long nights, hot days, time to relax, fun activities... you see, the list is infinite. Not to forget all the time I have for blogging, so stay tuned for new travel reports and other ideas that will certainly follow the next weeks.

Sunday is fun day - enjoy it!

Lake + Mountains = Love
No perfect week without a hike
Morning run
Home is holidays
Start your day the right way!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Love Letter

Thank you for this time

Cher Paris,

I love the lights besides the Seine River when the sun gently starts to sink. The majestic buildings turn from dirty grey to warm orange and only minutes later into romantic pink until they totally vanish in the darkness a blink afterwards. A light summer breeze touches my undone hair. I sip my glass of cold white wine. Eventually I simply feel like part of you and don't want to leave you ever again.

You are beautiful, inspiring and overwhelming. Let it be with cidre or wine, with baguette or crepes, with friends or alone. Every single time I enjoyed my time spent with you. I started to love you once I arrived with my suitcases at the Gare de Lyon. Being with you made me feel like a real woman, so mature, to have the liberty to have chosen you. During the last seven months, I even exploited you in a certain way: I had to see this and that, wanted to visit new places every single weekend and I was always in a rush. This rush and all these activities pushed my energy and it was like this typical relationships when you are in love as a teenager. I spent all the time with you and only realize now that it might have been too much. Given my restricted time, I had to so and I don't regret any single second. But it is not surprising that I feel exhausted today. I am tired of honking cars, stinging smells, lost tourists that try to find their places besides you if there is even left one. I hardly know whether there was ever a place for me...

Once calmed down, I realized that your pace and lifestyle don't necessarily match with mine. I am a girl from the countryside, I grew up with nature all around me and the privilege to go outside and breathe the freshest air one can imagine. I am not offending you at all. You are great and I wouldn't have wanted to miss the last months with you, but today I am confident enough and also happy to say, that it is time to leave you. As a nomad I am ready for new places, I want to embrace new adventures to eventually determine my place on this planet - or maybe I will be on the move all my live, who knows.
Together we share so many positive memories that it would be childish and stupid to ignore you in future. We are old enough to face that we are just not meant to be together forever. But our friendship - even if this a cliché - can hold for a very long time. Having said that, I will miss you and it won't be a long time until I stop by to say bonjour again.

Love, Svenja

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Iceland - nature's ruling the place

"Iceland." All of my friends took me for crazy when I announced that I was spending my summer holidays far up in the North of Europe.
Of course Iceland is not the destination for you if you love beaches and hot temperatures. But I consider myself as a winter kid and walking through snow in summer pushes my positive energy whilst I get lazy and depressed once the temperature exceeds the 30° C mark. Ok, maybe I am a little crazy. 

Hence, the only person willing to accompany me was my dad - so we conquered the island together! For 7 days we toured and I was stunned by the wide landscape, the people, the food and the fact that this place shows you in a brutal yet fascinating way how powerful nature is.

In the following I will share my favourite addresses, places and activities. If you are interested in further information, don't hesitate to leave a comment. 

Accommodation: Since we did a road trip, we stayed in different hotels every night. Except for one, we were really lucky (please find the best ones below). They all had in common their fresh homemade bread that I am a huge sucker for. 
  • Centerhotels, Reykjavik: It's a four star hotel chain in the capital, located in the city center. We stayed in Skjaldbreid and were totally satisfied. 
  • Skjaldarvik Guesthouse, Akureyri: Very friendly owners added their charm and own style to each room, located in an unhurried environment. 
  • Hotel Raudaskrida, Husavik: Only accessible by a gravel road (quite normal here), the little lodge is in the middle of green hills and offers hot pots for finishing your day in an easy-going manner. 
  • Hotel Reykjahlid, Myvatn: If you'd like to stay in the Myvatn region, this hotel offers you spacious rooms with amazing lake views. 
  • Hotel Eyvindara, Egilstadir: A simple and clean hotel with a beautiful view on the surrounding fields.
  • Camping site Haukafell: This camping site is located next to impressive Vatnajökull glacier and is a starting point for various family hikes through beautiful small hills. You even find a guest book to leave you signature on top of the mountain. 
  • Hotel GeirlandKirkjubaejarklaustur: This time we were lodged in a small cabin that was simple yet comfortable. Don't miss their homemade skyr cake and their bread! 
  • Hrifunes Guesthouse, Kirkjubaejarklaustur: Speaking of a super cosy bed and breakfast in an old bright red building, the personal atmosphere and their homemade food make it a real pleasure to stay here. 
  • Hotel Edda ML, Laugarvatn: The Edda Hotels can be found throughout Iceland. Though, the one in Laugarvatn is special since the village is full of boarding schools for Icelandic students. These boarding schools are transformed into hotels during summer holidays and welcome tourists from all over the world - how clever is that? 
  • Efsti-Dalur II, Selfoss: I had a chat with someone staying there who confirmed that this little farm is absolutely adorable and perfectly located. Once I saw there pictures on the internet, I totally believed him!

Restaurants: Although I live in Paris and am surrounded by first class restaurants, I must admit that the Icelandic restaurants have totally outshone the French cuisine. I haven't had so tasty food in a very long time.
  • Strikid Restaurant, Akureyi: The restaurant provides a great view of the small capital of the North while serving good meals that come in huge portions. You might consider to share a plate. 
  • Hamborgarfabrikken, Akureyri: Hamburgers have certainly invaded the Icelandic menus. A large variety is offered in the "factory" near the harbour. 
  • Rub23, Akureyri & Reykjavik: Do you want to start your journey with super delicious sea food? Rub23 is your place to go, combining local fish with American and Asian spices - I thoroughly recommend it!
  • Vogafjos, Myvatn: What an extraordinary location! Sitting in an old cow-shed you actually can watch the cows being milked! Obviously, all food is homemade with local ingredients, such as the cows' milk. 
  • Café Nielsen, Egilstadir: Once again, we enjoyed dinner outside (hah, Iceland is not that cold!) in the oldest restaurant of Egilstadir. I had lobster soup for the first time in my life and it was simply yummy. 
  • Pakkhús, Höfn: Probably the best dinner we had during our trip: although we had to wait for about an hour in their comfortable bar downstairs, the fresh fish was just perfect and worth every krone we paid. 
  • Systrakaffi, Kirkjubaejarklaustur: To continue the culinary aspect of this journey, this place is not to be missed. Although I passed so many sheep on the roads, I couldn't stop my curiosity to try their lamb: it was the best I've ever ever had. 
  • Lindin Bistro, Laugarvatn:  Reindeer Burger was my another dish on my to-try-list and I don't regret it at all. Lindin has an easy going bistro as well as a chic restaurant part. 
  • Islenskibarinn, Reykjavik: We had dinner at the Islenskibarinn which was a perfect conclusion for our adventure: I literally envied my dad for his salmon with quinoa. The waiters are extremely friendly and propose Icelandic beer matching your dish. 
  • C for Cookie, Reykjavik: Cookie monsters be aware! This is your place!
  • Reykjavik Roasters, Reykjavik: In between Macbooks, hipsters sip their coffee which is extremely tasteful as high quality is divine law inside. 
  • Matarkistan, Reyjkavik As a sucker for everything sweet, Matarkistan's macarons are my favourite sweet treat in Reykjavik. When the weather is good, you find young Icelanders enjoying them on the vast terrace. 
  • Noodle Station, Reykjavik: Enough of Northern food? This little take away provides fantastic Asian noodles.
  • Babalú, Reykjavik: Especially the colourful and comfy ambiance persuaded me to put it here. Can anyone tell me something about their food?

Activities: This is why I mainly went to Iceland - being active! Run around! Hike the mountains! With only 300.000 people living on the island, a lot of nature is left that wants to be discovered and admired.
  • Whale Watching: As I have done whale watching a couple of times, I this time skipped the experience. Passing by the offers in Husavik in the North, the little village is the perfect start for such a tour. 
  • Myvatn: The lake is formed due to the movements in the tectonic plates as the area is directly located on the Middle-Atlantic Ridge. We parked the car at Dimmuborgir, took the "difficult" trail and continued to the Hverfjall crater, an old volcano. Afterwards we quickly stopped at the lagoon which smells strongly since sulfar is evident in every single corner here. Then, we went to Hver, and again rotten eggs were in the air. In order to avoid the stingy smell we climbed up the hill where we enjoyed another fantastic view over Iceland's nature. Nature presented itself even more powerful at Dettifoss, the most impressive waterfall I've ever seen.
  • Hiking the glacier: We went to the Breiðamerkurjökull with a local guide called Thor (who definitely looked like the typical Icelandic man: blond, 2 meters and bright blue eyes). For me, there is no more beautiful than the infinite blue of ice that I could watch forever, so I enjoyed every second of 4 hrs walking. At Jökulsarlon the glacier breaks directly into a glacier lagoon, forming stunning ice sculptures and bathing the landscape into a mystical light.  
  • Eyafjallajökull: At one point, we decided to get a glimpse on the famous Eyafjalljökull - the volcano that errupted in 2010. We started somewhere before the ford on the road no.F249 but I eventually convinced my dad to stop our hike because it started heavily raining, we were all alone and - OMG - I was hiking a highly explosive volcano!
  • Road no.435: Instead of being overrun by all the tourists at Thingvellir and on road no.36, we took this street in order to reach Reykjavik. Not only did we pass a geothermal station, but we also discovered a beautiful landscape for hiking.
  • Touristy places: When in Iceland, you almost can't avoid to pass by the Golden Circle - the geysir, the Gulfoss waterfall and Thingvellir. At Skaftafell, Skogarfoss and Seljalandsfoss you will also find lots of buses that stop. 
  • The Blue Lagoon: Of course, I can't ignore it. We went there early in the morning before catching our flight back. Even if it gets crowded later, it was worth to add a relaxing finish to that whole trip. And yes, the name speaks for itself.

Shopping: Since Reykjavik is nearly the only place to go really shopping (except for souvenir and outdoor clothing boutiques that you find in some villages), I strolled around the capital in order to find some interesting addresses for you.
  • Laugarvegur: the main street with lovely cafes and Icelandic brands. 
  • Geysir: Those who know my style, know that Geysir is my store: from Hunter boots to Barbour jackets. 
  • Minja: Icelandic modern design items that change from the usual souvenirs and add a little twist to your interior decoration.

  • Airports: Keflavik (45 minutes away from Reykjavik) is the international airport to which European airlines fly. I got a little confused as Reykjavik has another domestic airport serving flights to Iceland, Greenland and Faroe Islands, operating with smaller planes. 
  • Costs: I like to compare the prices in Iceland to Switzerland which means that it is more expensive than average European countries. Nevertheless it is absolutely worth it and shouldn't be a criterion to miss this country as you can also travel with a restricted budget (camping, local supermarkets etc.).
  • Car: We rented a VW Up!, a small car that didn't fail once during our trip. Nevertheless you can't use such a vehicle to attack the roads in the highlands (you need jeeps there). If you are up for a little fun experience, you could for example take the little detour in the East: instead of taking the no.1 highway, you cut by taking the no.939. A little bit of fog, rain, some holes in the street and you are on the adventure (tested and approved by myself, the adventurous traveller :-)).
  • Hitch hikers: With no public transport, hitch hiking is the alternative if you want to move. Be generous and take people with you, if you have a little space left. We took Jesse with us, a young Australian that has been backpacking for 4 years now.
  • Bus system: If your budget is limited and you don't want to hitchhike every stage, Iceland on your own offers a bus system that brings you around the island (even to the highlands). I definitely will make use of them when coming back. 
So guys, this was Iceland for beginners. Easy hikes, good restaurants and a relatively relaxing pace. My favourite? Certainly the North and the glacier hike as the more I approached the Golden circle the more touristic the experience became. Yes, I certainly fell in love with the landscape which is why I already plan my next trip to Iceland. Next time? Askja, Landmannalaugar and the hike from Skogarfoss to Thorsmörk are on my agenda since I unfortunately missed the highly diverse Icelandic highland.
Don't wait for me a long time - I come back.