Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Flight Food: Emirates Dubai-Paris

By now we are well over it all- the flights, the uncomfortable seating positions we are forced into for hours on end. Not knowing what time it is exactly, breathing man made air that is drying us inside out. We just want to get to Paris, already! 

The plane food does not help. I expected the Emirates to be better, but their breakfast menu is as same as any other. Omelette and scrambled eggs have that same fake-looking resemblance. The complimentary croissants are bearable, so I eat those. 

Aren't we both glad to touch down. After more than 24 hours of flight and plane foods, we are finally in France!

Welcome back to France

The hot summer weather that has greeted us on our first days of France has cooled down somewhat already. The green fields of young vines, and, on the other side, the golden faces stretching to absorb the sunshine as much as us under the cloudless blue skies, have been our constant roadside companions to and from A's grandparents'. While flathunting and gathering new names and numbers of connaissances, my week in the French countryside has been beautiful, dreamlike, and a wonderful re-initiation into my year living the French life. 
During the weekend we have swam in the pristine clear pool in the backyard, practising our diving techniques off the diving board from the deep end; witnessed a beautiful flock of storks - without their bundles of babies, they must have been returning from work - swooping by, showing off their finesse by perching on nearby treetops to their starstruck audiences with gaping mouths; went on walks in the forests, gathering handfuls of ripe blackberries. 
How I have missed the French mealtimes! The animated discussions of this and that, the passing of plates, the regional wines, and the wonderfully varied and flavourful cheeses and dessert to finish. 
There are still many missed faces to meet up with, to kiss and to hug hello again. I need the hugs. I cannot wait! 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Flight Food: Qantas Sydney-Dubai

Qantas/Emirates code share flight between Sydney and Dubai was the longest leg of our flights from Auckland to Paris. Four hours from Auckland to Sydney; one hour transfer in Sydney; thirteen hours from Sydney to Dubai; four hour stop over in Dubai; six hours from Dubai to Paris. Equals = too long. 

First menu. Chipotle beef stew with rice and corn. The beef was too chewy, the rice too mushy and gluey. Salad had a tiny hint of parmesan shavings. Fortunately, the bread was of a better quality. A said the butter was an improvement, too. 1.5 from me, but only 1 from him since he had to spit out two pieces of chewy fats.
A chose chicken salad with beans, broccoli, and vege aoli. Nice sauce - planes foods are never 'lovely,' unfortunately - and fresh crisp vege pieces and tender chicken breasts, topped with pumpkin seeds, giving an extra crunchiness. For the mini side salad it was three pieces of grapefruit and two thin slices of orange. It's nice to see a salad as main, and more than two choices on the menu - though I can't remember the third choice we had now. This was a solid 4, and the best flight meal we had. A is full and he still hasn't had his dessert yet.. but also because he had finished most of my less-than-average dinner as well.

Dessert: Choco mousse with coconut and cherry. 2. I hate those fake pinky-red decoration cherries they use on cakes. The cherries in the mousse were like that, the same weird texture.

Babies enveloped us on all sides. The whole front row was full of them. We saw a lot of babies hugging other babies hello, making new friends. So cute! Though not so cute when they were screaming at night, frustrated with the cramped conditions. Thankfully most of them were sweet, it was mostly the baby girl in front of us who wouldn't stop screaming, the one who had spent most of the flight making eye contacts with us and shouting in delight. 
Supper time. Pizza snack with tomato paste, three slices of mushroom. The kind you heat up in the microwave. The kind you take three bites before they are all gone. Cannot believe they call it posh pizza sub. I wouldn't even buy one of these from a supermarket. 1. 
Pearl couscous tagine. 3. My choice, since I adore them normally. Was severely disappointed though. I think it must be hard for the flight attendants to have to eat meals like these all the time. I overheard one saying she was starving because she hadn't eaten at all, and I can well understand her. I wouldn't eat much either, except water and apples they had for the midnight snack stand.

During the flights I didn't watch as many films as I'd thought I would. I don't really watch many movies on planes any more. There weren't many I wanted to see, and staring at the plane screens at such close range gives me headaches. I prefer to sleep - rather uncomfortably, but being so small I am luckier than most - or to listen to music or to think. By the end of any long flights you are pretty much zombie-like, though. It is very important to drink and move about as much as you can. Feeling greasy, it has already been more than 24 hours since Auckland. Looking forward to the showers in Dubai, our next stopover. 

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Flight Food: Qantas Auckland-Sydney

Qantas flight from Auckland to Sydney. Travelling with a friend is better sometimes. You get to leave your luggage with someone when going to the toilets, for example. You also get to try both the menus on the planes. So you can share the one you prefer. 

Chicken penne was a bit too bland, but surprisingly tender. A thought it was flat in taste, but it was also because his choice had a much fuller flavour. A 3 out of 5 from me, a 2.5 from him.
A had the beef stew in chili beans with mashed potatoes. It was average. The bread wasn't top and the butter had a weird texture - I don't usually touch them. A ate all of his. 3/5.

We both liked the Whittaker's chocolate as dessert. A little Kiwi touch. Afterwards there was another sweet treat of Tip Top choco covered ice creams, with choco centre. 4/5 for the desserts.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Smart Living Tip: Steps to Independence

What does it mean to be independent? Does it mean to be grown up? From another perspective, what does it mean to be grown up, anyhow? I am feeling quite philosophic today; thinking a lot about things. 
  • Source of income $$$
A friend is having trouble becoming fully independent from her parents, mainly financially. You don't want to cut ties with your folks completely but don't want to have to ask them to open their wallets every time you talk to them, either.
  • A place to lay your head
With money coming in, you will get to have a place to call your own. You don't have to live by yourself but I think it's important to be living away from your parents' place. To learn to cook for yourself, clean after yourself, to form a schedule that is yours. 

You may be a couple living together but don't fall into the trap of becoming too dependent on him or her. Another friend is trying to become more independent in her relationship with her boyfriend. To have more 'her' time with her friends, to help more with the housework, and especially cooking, which has always been mainly his role thus far. He wants more help - fortunately, she agrees, so no big drama there.
  • Healthy body and mind
Everyone needs downtime. Exercise, meditate, read. Discuss and exchange ideas and opinions with others. Eat well - learn to cook. Plus, being sick costs money.
  • Freedom of movement
With a healthy body, you are capable to get to places by yourself. Walk, cycle, bus/train. Get a driver's licence, just in case. It will become handy, even if you don't drive often. Only if to have another form of official photo ID.
  • Free access to information
Knowledge is power. Read heaps, get to know the world, watch the news from time to time. The Internet makes information so easy to obtain - literally at the touch of your fingertips, on your cellphones and laptops, your constant companions.
  • Friends and family's support
I thought I was pretty independent but at times I find myself not so grown up. I don't know if I will ever feel fully mature. I am still forming my own opinions about myself and my choices, which may - and frequently do - clash with my peers' and parents' ideas. But I do know what kind of an adult I want to become, and want to be true to myself and not conform to what they think is right; even if I understand where they are coming from. Whether it be fashion or lifestyle choices. Stand up for yourself, but don't make enemies of your friends and family, either. To be independent does not mean to be lonely.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Melbourne: Melbourne in Three Days

  • Day 1: City centre. Start at Federation Square (free wifi), across Flinder's Station. Head to the Laneways - Degraves St (restaurants), Centre Place (cafes and space invader), Hosier Lane (graffiti)!!   Bourke St mall (via Royal Arcade if you want) is always full of buskers, which is cool. Finish the night around Southbank, across the bridge from Federation Square - it's the best spot in Melbourne at night
  • Eatery suggestion for day 1: Cookie Bar on Swanston St. Swanston also for your souvenirs and postcards
  • Day 2: Fitzroy and Brunswick for cool vintage shops, cafes, hipster scenes. Naked Satan for tapas and roof bar. Lygon St for Italian food, Brunetti for dessert
  • Day 3: St Kilda beach. Take the tram 96 from Federation Sq. You can buy a Myki tram card from the Fed Sq Info Centre. St Kilda beach and Fairie penguins at the end of the pier (go at sunset); night markets during summer
  • Fresh fruit and vege from Queen Vic Market. Otherwise Coles supermarket
  • A must when you're in Victoria, a road trip along the Great Ocean Road!
  • Afternote: when you get out of the airport, get out of the right hand side door and take the red bus into town

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Paris: In Three Days?

Friends of a friend is going to Paris for a few days - lucky them! Here are a few suggestions I gave them last week:
  • Start from Arc de Triomphe on Champs Elysée and walk straight towards the Louvre museum.
  • There’s another museum next to it on rue Rivoli called Les musées des Arts Décoratifs that has design and fashion exhibitions that are less crowded.
  • Also on rue Rivoli is Angelina’s, a very popular café with the best hot chocolates and desserts. Have lunch at St. André des Arts, it’s a street with lots of restaurants.
  • St-Chapelle on Ile de la Cité is amazing, and worth the wait to get in. You can also visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, Shakespeare & Co (a famous bookshop) across the street, and have a wander around the Latin Quarter. Another great church is the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre.
  • Have a picnic dinner on Friday nights on Pont des Arts with the Parisians! Rue Mouffetard on the 5th arrondissement also has many bars and lots of Parisian students and tourists come here in the evenings.
  • Still in the 5th arrondissement, you can enjoy mint tea and Arabic desserts at the Mosquée de Paris on 39, rue Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire. This is the place shown on the movie, Je t’aime Paris. On Saturday mornings visit the Bastille Market (Bastille metro station). It’s one of the biggest markets in Europe, selling fruit and vegetables, bread, flowers, clothes, etc.
  • If you want crêpes from the streets, make sure they are 3 euros or less. If there are more than 3 euros, they are too expensive. One good crêpe restaurant is L'Ebouillanté, on 6 rue des Barres. It’s in the 4th district, which is also le Marais and is the Gay district. It’s teeming with hipsters. There are lots of interesting shops here, especially op shops for second hand clothes.
  • Best falafels can be found L’As du Fallafel on rue des Rosiers, which is the Jewish part of le Marais. There’s always a queue but it’s not that expensive.
  • The two most well-known macarons shops are Ladurée and Pierre Hermé. Ladurée is more girly and has more traditional flavours. I like their smaller shop on rue Napoléon, which is less crowded than their Champs Elysée shop. Pierre Hermé is more modern and has experimental flavours. They are around the same price wise.
  • After notes: Rue du Cherche-Midi also has many restaurants for lunch (the street name literally means ‘find-noon’, because it’s where the Parisians can be found at noon). Musée Rodin has a garden at the back with lounge chairs that not a lot of people know about. It’s a great museum, as well.