Old habit re-introduced; as a teenager I used to start my day with a cup of herbal tea, or hot chocolate. Coffee came into my life much later, together with my first stable job.  I think we have all been there: gravitating around the office kitchen and a machine  destined to yield cup after cup of bad coffee. Caffeine in exchange for movement.

Coffee is now a habit of the past, and on my last visit to Thessaloniki this October I made sure to stock up on some herbs: mountain tea, verbena and sage. No fancy tea bags, no new age quotes, no frills; yet when the dry leaves, stems and flowers awaken in the steaming water,  fragrances develop that are reminiscent of  sun-bathed rocks in insular landscapes and of flourishing mountain slopes.

I pour some chestnut honey made by pious bees on the Mount Athos and some freshly squeezed lemon juice into a big glass of tea and  wonder how come I did not think of this earlier.  herbaltea

I also made a date with a stack of beautiful origami paper, because I have decided that, unless I really make time for it, creativity will not materialise just like that.

So I booked me up and after producing two stars, I think that I am already hooked.  Origami is delicious finger-food, I can assure you. Once I have mastered the art of folding a star with eyes closed, I’ll move on to the next challenge; it may take some time, but at least I will have a firmament of paper stars to wish upon.

origami

Grützi from Confoederatio Helvetica, a neutral state composed by 26 cantons, spanning 220 km from north to south and 350 km from east to west. Five neighbouring countries, four official languages and eight million people.

Facts are facts and who am I to  deny them? What I know is that ever since first reading ‘Asterix chez les Helvetes‘ at age eight, I have associated Switzerland to  bank vaults, muddy lake shores, Roman fondue orgies, pedantic cleanliness, the edelweiss and huge wheels of Emmentaler. So, when I found out that I was going to Zürich for work, I could not help smiling – there is a lake in Zürich, isn’t there?

Despite a hectic working week spent between a conference venue and the very centrally located Hotel Walhalla and thanks to some early morning walks, I had the opportunity to  indeed see for my own eyes how the two rivers  Limmat and Sihl run through  the city and into the Zürich See. 

GPS

I  also came to  realise that skipping room service, meant missing out on the piece of Swiss chocolate strategically placed on top of  the white  bed pillow, and that in case you feel lost, you will always  find a Starbucks and if not next to it, then just some meters away a Burger King.

reflectiononriver

Swanlake autumnalstreet

By a twist of chance, on Friday I could reunite with a friend from Thessaloniki and his Zürich based love and enjoy some genuine Balkan hospitality which started with a ride on the Dolderbahn cable car and a heartfelt dinner at  Adlisberg, a  tavern on the  Zürichberg hill.

PaokPartisan

squirrel

After a week of grey and foggy weather, we woke up to Saturday blue skies, just in time for a stroll around the old town, a visit of an Egon Schiele expo at the Kunsthaus and a walk followed by lunch at the city centre. When the rain started trickling, I was safely boarding the airport train, dry and very content.

Fountainandstatue

bubble1 chasingbubbles

circus zurichsee

 

Bike What do I take with me from Zürich?

A piece of Gruyère and fond memories of a short, but sweet visit of a city equally charming and expensive. Some of my favourite spots are located on and around  Löwenstrasse, a central street just off the main train-station. On it you will find  Babu’s bakery & cafe, and a bit further down, on Sihlstrasse 71 is the marvelous Hallenbad City swimming pool. If I had time, I would have had a drink at Bar Basso, at a breath’s distance from the river.

rsz_barbasso

market

Apart from the loads of organic food available in restaurants, stores and outdoor markets, Switzerland would not be what it is without its chocolate.

sprungli

175-year old  Confiserie Sprüngli is a living proof.  Wherever you turn, there it is, a proud ambassador of Swiss confections. However, I decided to leave it for next time.

Luckily I have rarely visited a place that I would not like to revisit;  I have therefore taken the habit of not saying goodbye but rather until next time. In this case, I’ll say auf Wiedersehen.

The past few weekends have been great and the last one was not only much anticipated but also simply fantastic. Full of those things that mean a lot in life. Two very important persons were visiting and  the flow was perfect. Apart from the feeling, I would like to share a few good Brussels addresses.

pumpkinsoup

pumpkinpiechocosauce

 

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lemonade2

Chez moi for  breakfasts, aperitif, and a  pumpkin-themed dinner composed of soup, risotto and  pie.

Chicago cafe & Le Crachin – two gems on central and picturesque rue de Flandre: a funky spacious and accessible (think wheelchairs, strollers, etc.) cafe & eatery serving great ‘home-made’ lemonade amongst other  items, and a tiny and narrow creperie sporting a rich menu of sweet crepes and savoury galettes.

Le Bozar for a temporary exhibition of flamboyant Gothic art from Sienna.

walkingthai2

Walkin thai  on Lesbroussart for good and affordable Thai food in a modern decor with splashes of bright pink.

Two weekends ago I was not in Tokyo…

Tokyo

…but in a misty, rainy, and humid Thessaloniki, about  10,000 km away from anything Nihon.

Thessaloniki may not have the exotic air of the bustling Japanese capital, but its charm lays in its maze of  narrow streets, full of shops and markets that can accommodate most budgets and desires even in times when money is, to say the least, thin on the ground.

vasileosirakliou

From belly-hugging Hellenic undies that refuse the lethal allure of ‘made in China’  and remain as classic as the Caryatids of the Parthenon…

chineseproductskill

garlic

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…to all kinds of herbs, spices, grains, super-foods and everyday consumables. If apparel is what you long for, again, supply is more than what you can handle.

When tired of walking around, there is always a cafe ready to take you in and offer you let’s say a decaf in a frothy wraparound of quinoa milk. Coffee remains a highly rated currency. Crisis or not, a coffee at a central location still costs the equivalent of a decent snack.

cocoaroseandteaIt is always refreshing to catch up with people, friends and family, although when time is short and packed, such efforts are compromised. I left with the feeling that I should do this again soon, even if only for a typical comet visit. Fast and curious.

 

Today while at the office, I was in a slightly bad mood not knowing exactly why.  I was trying to put my finger on it; I missed being at home, comfortable and snug in my own little territory.

dosaiandspinachThe day ahead was going to be long; but then again, when walking from work to yoga in the rain, I thought that the weather was not perfect but fine enough and that it is all about enjoying the ride as well as the anticipation.

Now I’ve just blown out the candle on the low living room table, turned off the oven where tomorrow’s breakfast has been baking and I am at home sweet home, ready to call it  a day.

 

I really appreciate this time of the year; the transition into the depths of autumn with winter lurking around the corner. Days may be darker and shorter, but the light comes from within.

I love looking at illuminated windows and conjuring up images of the people living there. I also love how colours become richer and warmer, enhanced by yellowish and golden hues to spark up the grayness that gradually settles.

This first weekend of November has been drenched in beautiful autumnal light. Bright  mornings and dark evenings ideal for lighting candles, sinking into the moment, and letting the mind wander, softly touching the memories of our departed loved ones.

lotusflowerandlotusfruit

Watching the stillness of a flame, remembering and recollecting; assembling the pieces of the complicated puzzle of life and love, feeling blessed right here, right now.

Sunday morning after a late night out. Felt rested after a mere five and a half hours of sleep.

While the sun was shining and I was sipping on my morning tea, I realised that I had a fridge full of vegetables and a shortish week ahead due to upcoming travel.  A woman has got to do what a woman has got to do, so I just pulled up the sleeves of my tank top and cleaned and reorganised the fridge.

cleanfridge

This was the first step to the cooking pandemonium that followed: steamed Brussels sprouts and carrots, stir-fried vegetables, roasted crispy Chinese cabbage, an oven-baked pumpkin and zucchini & fennel soup all lined up in  pots, plates and pans.

chilliandgarlic

sproutsandasianstirfry

After several turns of chopping, washing and drying dishes, everything looked pretty organised and my lunches and dinners catered for. Nothing to waste and nothing to regret. A successful exercise of domestic efficiency and a quite appropriate prelude to The Lunchbox that I watched in the afternoon on the big screen of the city’s smallest movie theatre.

The film left me with that great after-taste of good cinema. Inspired and content I rounded up the day with dinner, a foot bath and candle-light.footbath

It’s already getting late and despite my energy levels being on the high side, I am planning on soon diving under my duvet with a book that -at last!- seems really promising.

 

 

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