Throwback Thursday: Little Swiss in Normandy

In the spirit of #throwbackthursday and how I finally proud living in Normandy :p , I will show you my sweet trip to Bagnoles de l’Orne in Lower Normandy. At first, I had no idea where the town is, I simply found the town when I was searching a weekend great deal on travelbird website. We visited the town in late autumn 2014. I was pretty worried that the town wasn’t that pretty as I expected, I did google before, but you know sometimes pictures did not tell the truth. Fortunately, it was beyond than I expected. Bagnoles de l’Orne was a little town with approximately 2502 habitants surrounded by Andaines forest.

What make me falling love with this town is “the lake” located in the middle of the town which is formed by River Vée, it is kinda remind me of Switzerland. Bagnoles de l’Orne was also well known as typical French bourgeoise residential area, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing which was built during “the belle époque” quarter.

Well, I can tell you that Normandy has also a little paradise. 🙂

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Hello from Dieppe!

 

Dieppe is one of coastal town located in Upper Normandy which famous with their scallops and seafood. Two weeks ago we went to this town to taste some of Dieppe’s culinaire and visit the famous “Marché de Dieppe“(read: Dieppe’s market). The market is the lively Saturday morning in downtown Dieppe. A popular meeting place for supplies, including local farm products, and to meet. Marché de Dieppe is one of the biggest one within the region. You can find not only fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products from local farmer, but also takeaway food, flowers and clothes.

One of my colleague who grew up in Dieppe gave me a list of restaurant which qualified as Michelin restaurant, Restaurant “A la Marmite Dieppoise“.  It’s pretty expensive, but quality cannot lie. They have some specialties from Dieppe, such as la marmite Dieppoise, a sort of seafood soup contains prawns, fillet de turbot, scallops, mussels, and lobster in sour cream. We also went to the famous patisserie “Divernet“, and it’s kinda hard not to taste their amazing patisseries.

 

What I love about Rouen

I’ve been moving to different cities across France – from the south to the north, and now I’m currently stuck in the capital city of Normandy, Rouen. It’s been more than two years living in Normandy, but I’ve never written about Rouen. I usually visit the town on Saturday and when it was not raining. My first year living in Normandy was pretty hard, you rarely had friends visit because Normandy always sounds gloomy and sad, so no one is really interesting to visit this city unless they have reason to go to. But, after more than two years, I’m getting used to love everything about this city. At the end, it’s just a matter of time and how you see and enjoy new things differently.

La Cathedral des Notre Dame
La Cathedral de Notre Dame
  1. It seriously rains a lot – it rains on 4 days in 7 days period, mostly during the weekend. It sounds sad, I know, but if you’re a true Norman, the rains won’t bother you to go out.
  2. You will bring your big-strong umbrella anywhere you go, just in case it’s raining in beautiful sunny day – Say good bye to your small-compact umbrella, it won’t work in Normandy.
  3. You just spent 650 €/month for a big two bedrooms apartment with nice view of the River Seine – I don’t think you will have this good deal in Paris. When I lived in Marseille, I only can afford one small bedroom with 500 €/month.
  4. You can eat proper food in French restaurant with affordable price – I always love eating good food. I rarely had that when I was in the South or even in Lille. Sometimes the price is not affordable, but in Normandy, 5/7 random restaurant I had visited, I mostly have best value for money.
  5. You can have home made foie gras everyday – This time I’m a little bit exaggerating, but you can indeed eat foie gras every season, even in French brasseries. By the way, foie gras is not a paté. Price is from 8 € to 15 € for two slices of foie gras, toast, and salad.
  6. You’re not going to wear your heals when you walk in the town centre – unless you have someone to hold on to. Some streets in city centre are made from cobblestone, and even it’s not raining, it’s pretty slippery.

    Rue des Gros Horloge
    Rue des Gros Horloge
  7. The oldest restaurant in France is in Rouen – Even though I have never had an occasion to go there, but I’m pretty proud to say that Rouen has the oldest restaurant in France. 

    Restaurant la Couronne
    Restaurant la Couronne
  8. Town centre always packed on sunny Saturday – It’s like everyone from the suburbs and surrounded cities, also the tourists are going to the same place – you cannot walk peacefully, you definitely cannot ride your bike, no tranquil window shopping, restaurant are packed and impossible to take picture without having people at the background. It kindly reminds me of walking in Champs Elysée, Paris.
  9. Lots of tea-shop, bars and brunch cafeteria in walking distance – from the vintage, classic to modern style. So, when it’s raining, you can just jump in and stay warm.  

    French bar
    Classic French bar
  10.  You’re not very far from anything – from the beaches, Paris, airports, Calais, Deauville and Giverny (Jardin de Monet). Long story short, you will always have a reason to go out.

A fancy trip to Lille

Had been lived in Lille for a year, makes me always feel that this city is my second home. Lille is a pretty big city in the north of France, situated near France and Belgium border. When I was living in south of France, people asked me why I want to move to the north when you have sun almost everyday in the south, and they said Northern people is always sad, which is I can prove you that it is definitely not true.

I’ve been moving to several cities in different regions in France, and Lille is still my favorite one. Lille so far has the most humble and warmest people and neighborhood I have ever lived in. Even everyday is a grey sky, but you can always having fun and meet nice people.

I regularly visit this city even I do not live there anymore, so I’m going to give you some travel tips if you want to enjoy your weekend in Lille.

First, where to stay: 

If you want to enjoy five star hotel facilities and have a historical visit at the same time Hotel l’Hermitage Gantois-Autograph Collection is the best one in the city. The hotel was established in a historical monument from the 15th century and is an exceptional mix between ancient architecture and modern design. The Hermitage Gantois, a special place to relax surrounded by history and modernity. Each room has its own personality which will make your stay a unique experience (read more & make a reservation).  Tips: Don’t forget to bring your swim suit because they have swimming pool & spa service. What I love: their very huge bar and their gastronomic restaurant.

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the classic painting in the room

Second, having a tea time at Méert: 

A voyage to the best pastry and chocolates shops in town. The history of Méert begins in 1761, when Mr. Delcourt settles Sweets Chocolatier in Lille, at 27 Esquermoise street address where we find traces of a confectionery since 1661. It will soon be followed by his compatriot Modo Rollez who with his artist friends, the architect Alexandre Alphonse Benvignat and Leroy, give instead the face we know today, an incredible Pompeian style décor and orientalist flamboyant, rich and talented Stalars Huidiez, painter and sculptor registered in the period.

The Belgian Michael Paulus Gislinus Méert took over the business after five years in the settlements in the cocoa plantations, sugar cane, vanilla and coffee. also a course rich in the largest confectionery manufacturers in Europe, it develops the already numerous pastry sweets and creates fabulous waffle filled with vanilla, finally leaving its name to the famous house.  

Given the success, the first tea room “Family Teapure neo Louis XVI style and work of architect Cordonnier was inaugurated, followed quickly by a second art deco lounge and a new store in the years 1930. at the turn of the twenty-first century, all the seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings, which housed the workshops are transformed into reception room, leading to the place we know today. (read more history)

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Must to try: Méert waffle. Tips: Be patient while queueing, it’s worth it!

Third, best cocktail bar in town: 

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When you have time to spend a night in Lille, you must visit Le Dandy cocktail’s bar and of course try some of their drinks, they serve original cocktails that you hardly find anywhere else. It is located in the famous quartier in Lille, le vieux Lille If you’re not fancy to drink alcohol, don’t worry! They also have some delicious cocktail’s without alcohol. Tips: Try to reserve a place during the weekend.

Fourth, where to eat: 

This one is pretty difficult, it depends what type of food you are in the mood is, but don’t worry I will give you some reference of some different restaurants in Lille.

The best Italian cuisine restaurant:La Bottega, I’ve never disappointed every time I went to this Italian restaurant, they have proper Italian pizza and very good tiramisu.

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The best Japanese cuisine: Jomon-negishi

It is sometimes very hard to find a Japanese restaurant owned and prepared by a proper Japanese chef in Europe. What you can find is quick sushi or a Chinese restaurant who served Japanese food. But in Jomon, Lille, you can find not only sushi but also bento menu with tempura, a proper and delicious tempura.

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French Gastronomic: Au Goût du Jour restaurant

To be honest, I haven’t try all gastronomic restaurants in Lille, well they have numbers of them. But, this one is one of the best in town. What makes different with other gastronomic restaurants in Lille, Au Goût du Jour will serve you their special menu “les yeux fermés” (read: eye closed). The chef will give you a surprise menu (starter, main dish, dessert) and of course they will ask you first something you cannot eat and you don’t like.

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Tips: better make a reservation

And last, what to visit: 

Grand Place de Lille 38

You can visit all historical buildings in Lille by walking distance: The famous Grand Place, Vielle Bourse just on the right, Chambre de commerce, le quartier Vieux Lille, Musée de Beaux-Arts.

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If you want to show your friends a running track like a star, you can go running or have a walk in Jardin Vauban – Citadelle.

Indonesia is not just Bali!

Even it was too early to take summer holiday in June, but I just couldn’t stand anymore for not taking as earliest as I can. It’s been almost two years since I came back home to see my beloved family and friends. Well, I would not tell you about how excited I was for coming back home, of course I was. However, I’ll introduce you something you’ve never heard about Indonesia.

Indonesia is the largest archipelago country in the world, comprises 13.466 islands, including main and small islands, which some of them is still uninhabited and remains unnamed.

If you had notice, we’re located in the equator, so that’s the reason why we have tropical climate with two seasons, dry and rainy. Thunderstorm and heavy rain are very usual for us. We’ve never waited the rain to stop to go out, because when it rains it would be taking for the whole day or sometimes it will continue until the next day. Most Indonesian people would never complain about the weather like people always do in Europe when the weather goes bad, just don’t forget to bring your umbrella or your raincoat everywhere.  Or, just in case if you forgot to bring one, don’t be upset, there will be a lot of pop-up umbrella services almost in every public spot such, malls, schools, universities, etc. Some of them are  free of charge (ex: restaurant, cafe, or small shops) because their guardian or parking man would turn into an umbrella man for their customers. However, some of them are the real service which you have to pay them for the umbrella rental. The price is somehow quite variable, between 1000 – 5000 IDR per umbrella (about 6 – 32 cents) , depends on where you are and your final destination. You will find a lot of children (age 10th to 17th) hanging umbrellas and ready to cover you to your closest destination. People said we’re pretty creative in creating job. As long as you have a willing to do something, you would never be unemployed.

a view taken from my hotel hallway

Since I still had two days left  for my business trip, so my first stopover in Indonesia was Batam island, it just located next to Singapore. We need one hour to go through the strait by ferry. But, thanks to one hour different time between Singapore and Indonesia, when i supposed to be arrived one hour later since my departure time, my arrival time remains the same as my departure time. I stayed in Harris Hotel, a 4 stars hotel located next to my ferry harbour. I was so lucky when I got there, there’s a new islamic building just finished their construction a week before I arrived. At first, I thought it was a mosque, I was surprised when the local said that the Batam government built the islamic building to welcome the MTQ participants (National Competition of reading Al Qur’an). They said even the President of Republic of Indonesia just came to the city a week before to open the inauguration.

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Finally, Semarang, the capital city of Central Java province, located in Java Island. Since I’ve been away from home for two years, so I did not have much time to visit some iconic sites in Semarang. Well, this one is quite famous, the Great Mosque of Central Java. The mosque complex covers 10 hectares (25 acres). There are three central buildings arranged in the shape of a U, with the domed mosque at the centre; all buildings have pitched, tiled roofs, while the central mosque has four minarets. The central roof resembles the roof of a “joglo“, the traditional Javanese house, and symbolises the rising steps toward heaven or to gain God’s blessing. The long buildings forming the arms of the U house a library and auditorium respectively; the auditorium can hold up to 2,000 people. (source: wikipedia) A friend told me that I have to visit it twice, in the morning and at night, cause they would deifinitely give you different view.

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The second place to visit was Umbul Sidomukti Tourism Park, located in Ungaran regency, 1 hour 30 minutes driving from Semarang. This place was just amazing. They had natural swimming pool, camping site, food court, flying fox, outbond activities, hotel, cafe and restaurant. If you need a peaceful place to go, this place would be a perfect sweet escape for you.

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Next, my hometown, the city where I grew up, Bandung, the capital city of West Java province, still in Java Island. the country’s third largest city by population, and second largest metropolitan area in Indonesia with a sprawling urban population of 8.6 million in 2011. Located 768 metres (2,520 ft) above sea level, approximately 140 kilometres (87 miles) south east of Jakarta, Bandung has cooler temperatures year-round than most other Indonesian cities. The city lies on a river basin surrounded by volcanic mountains. (source: wikipedia).

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If I’d never lived abroad, I might never taking this famous building in Bandung. This building is a government office for Governor of West Java, called Satay Building “gedung sate”, which is a reference to the shape of the building’s central pinnacle – which resemble the shape of one of the Indonesian traditional dish called satay (source: wikipedia).

Talking about Bandung is talking about food, many domestic and international tourists come to visit Bandung only for our culinary. We have lots of restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, tea shops, bars, snacks shops, and thousands of street foods who serves diverse foods and beverages from traditional to international cuisine, but please note: with a local taste. The most thing I’ve written on my visit lists was the foods that I used to eat when I lived here. I had only 2 days to spend my days in Bandung, which is It was absolutely not enough because I had a very long lists of restaurants and cafes that I used to go before.

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Well, let me show you one of my favorite restaurant in Bandung, located in the north of Bandung, called Boemi Joglo, actually it was not a Bandung traditional cuisine, it is mostly javanese typical food, but, I’ve never found any better restaurant who serves at least as delicious as they had. They have speciality in making a “Nasi Liwet” or Liwet rice. It was prepared in the traditional pan and cooked using the firewoods. So I think that’s why they have a special taste on it. The picture above is a javanese street food called “tempe mendoan”. The ingredients are tempeh (fermented from soja been), flour, oil to fry, onion leeks, coriander, salt, and garlic powder (i guess). It serves with indonesian sweet soja sauce, tiny lime, and chilies). The picture below was “Liwet rice”. The ingredients are mushrooms, chicken, traditional spices (which is I couldn’t mention it one by one), indonesian sweet soja sauce, and basilic.

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So, Indonesia is not just Bali as well as France is not just Paris!