Diamonds in the Sky

Tonight I travelled. I didn’t go very far. In fact I only took a step, but discovered a new universe altogether. All I did was walk onto the terrace of my childhood home – I only did one single step – from the kitchen to the terrace, but it was like I entered a completely new world. Miss Lovely had brought to my attention that a meteor shower could possibly be seen tonight –this was a chance not to be missed. Unfortunately the sky was too cloudy and the moon to bright, so I could not see anything. With each shooting star I had hoped to release a wish, a dream, or a hope. It was not meant to be, so I will find another way to set them free. However sitting outside, wrapped up in my blanket, I felt like I had taken my leave of absence from a busy medical world for a short time. I looked up the sky and could see a few stars, sparkling like diamonds, and the moon was so wonderfully bright, in the distance I could see the lights from the industrial estate, and hear the noises from the cars on the country road close by and on the motorway a bit further away. I held my glass of wine, took a sip, and enjoyed this particular moment, trying to take it all in, not thinking about yesterday, or today, or even tomorrow, but just enjoying the now. Our magnolia tree looked lovely in the background, so I walked over to it, and leaned against it. I touched the flowers and stroked the petals (a rubbery texture), the leaves (velvety) and the branches (a very interesting texture, hard to describe, not like a tree at all). I held the flowers in my hand – they are really big and there was only enough space in my palm to fit one. I even smelled the flowers – an understated sweetness and softness, yet not overwhelming at all. The magnolia tree is my tree – strong and beautiful. The night was cool and fresh, but it did not make me freeze. I remember taking a really deep breath, let the air fill my lungs, and then exhaled… all was good. I closed my eyes and let my mind wonder… 

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To Boston – with Love

I had been working on my next entry for my Travel Memories section, entitled “Enjoying the Good Life in Boston II”, which I had wanted to post this week, but then I read the news. In the light of recent events, the explosions at the Boston Marathon on 15 April 2013, I thought that it would more appropriate if I held onto the aforementioned post for a little while longer.

Boston was my favourite destination of the US-leg of my journey. I have some wonderful fond memories of my 5 days in this city: I remember walking carelessly around the streets, following the Freedom Trail, strolling through the Back Bay neighbourhood, not worrying about tomorrow. This seems like a distant dream now. The bombings occurred in the neighbourhood where I had been staying for 3 nights… that thought just makes me shiver. In Boston I was met with hospitality, joie de vivre, friendliness and helpfulness, making my stay there very special. The explosions happened on Patriot’s Day, a public holiday in Massachusetts where everyone is out an about, lining the streets to cheer the runners on or having BBQs and a beer with friends, generally having a good time. I cannot believe that this atmosphere was destroyed with such a senseless act of violence…

I went to bed last night and I did something which I have not done in a very long time – I started to pray – for my friends in Boston, their family and their friends; for complete strangers, praying that God might give them strength, hope and courage in this dark hour.

Boston – this post is dedicated to you – with all my love and sympathy.

Living the Good Life in Boston

Probably the best meal I had during my whole trip was in Boston. Before leaving Canada to embark on the US segment of my trip, a member of the wedding party had suggested that I should definitely have a meal at the Legal Seafood Company in Boston, ideally next to the harbour, and so I did. Initially I was tempted to have lobster, but as I am not very agile with my hands when it comes to de-shelling my food, I decided to go for their Signature Crab Cake Combo, which came highly recommended by the water. This particular seafood platter was to die for: it consisted of one jumbo crab cake, which was moist and delicious, full of proper crab meat and not potato-ey at all; 3 scallops, perfectly tender; and fried shrimps – I am usually not a fan of shrimps, but these were sooooo good. I can honestly say that this dish has made it onto my top 3 of my “meals-to-die-for” list – just slightly preceded by a mouth-watering 3 course dinner (a mozzarella-tomato starter, venison with chocolate ganache as a main, and chocolate dessert) at The Kitchen in Sliema, Malta and an absolutely wonderful surprise dinner menu at the restaurant Engel in Hamburg (pumpkin soup with scallops on the side, veal with gnocchi and vegetables, rounded off with a moelleux au chocolat). What made this Bostonian dining experience even more special was that the service was the most attentive, courteous and top-notch one I have ever experienced! Aaah my mouth keeps watering just thinking about this mind blowingly good food….

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Cocktail and the City

Even though I am a bit scared of heights, there is nothing that I like doing better than going up a really tall building – like the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Centre, the CN Tower – to enjoy the view of a city. The sights from the top floors a skyscraper are just breath-taking, especially by night. When I can combine the views with a really good cocktail I become a happy bunny.

This brings me then to another travel memory – this time set in Boston. The Prudential Tower is the 2nd tallest building of the capital of Massachusetts with 228 metres (or 749 feet for my American and Canadian friends) rising over 52 floors. Coincidence wanted it that I ended up staying the Back Bay neighbourhood, where the Prudential Tower is located as well. Not only does this building have an observatory deck on the 50th floor, nope, it also has a restaurant and bar on the 52nd floor, called Top of the Hub. Needless to say that I had found another little piece of heaven on earth. No, I did not only visit the place once, but indeed twice. The first time I had gone there to enjoy the view from the Skyline Observatory, which gave me an incredible 360° view over Boston and Cambridge. Interestingly enough there was also an exhibition on immigration on that floor, which I, a museum nerd, utterly enjoyed and found very educational. But I do not want to bore you with history here, I’d rather share some pictures I took on that sunny day:

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After having taking in the views, which felt like an eternity (I simply cannot get enough of looking out of the window of a really tall building!), I then headed to the elevator to go up to the restaurant, where I spontaneously decided to have dinner and a cocktail. Surprisingly, I did not go with my usually favourite of a mojito, but decided to try something new. As I had not had martini before, I decided to try a Green Apple Martini. It was absolutely amazing, and with that I have a new favourite alcoholic drink. Here is what I feasted on that night:

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On my last night in Boston, before heading to New York City, I decided to get dressed up in one of my favourite summer dresses (which I call my white and blue Hepburn dress) and headed out to stroll around the fashionable Back Bay neighbourhood. Walking up Newbury Street I came across an Italian restaurant with outside seating, and as it was a mild evening, I decided that night’s dinner outside on the patio. That is how I like to enjoy my holiday evenings – I regaled myself on a big bowl of pasta, followed by a massive piece of chocolate cake and accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. Feeling the summer breeze on my skin, I knew that this was dolce far niente at its best. I then wanted to end the night in the aforementioned now new favourite cocktail bar in the sky. I got really lucky and was seated next to the window at Top of the Hub and was able to enjoy my cocktail while listening to some jazz and taking in the lights of Boston by night 52 storeys above the ground. A perfect ending to a perfect 5 days in Boston – I definitely now how to enjoy the good life. 🙂
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Helicopter Ride over Niagara Falls

Sometimes you have to push your limits, overcome your fears and tackle your phobias; sometimes you just need to be stronger than your deepest darkness and face your worst demon; and you might just realise that there is something wonderful waiting for you on the other side of the wall.

That is how I found myself in a helicopter with my host family last summer. Me, who is scared of heights, but somehow always manages to go up the tallest buildings to enjoy the view. I guess I like a bit of an adrenaline kick and I am definitely curious. Curiosity usually trumps fear of height, and I am usually ok if there is some solid ground underneath my feet and some sort of barrier that prevents me from falling down or my glasses sailing several stories down to mother earth. The helicopter did not have that reassurance. I wanted to chicken out of this family trip, but my host mum was not having any of it. So I sat in my seat, all strapped up, figuratively shitting my pants, and yet a tiny bit excited too. Any opposition at this stage was… well… useless… I took a deep breath and the helicopter took off, a lot smoother than I would have expected.

the end I had to realise that I was in for the most stunning and mind blowing experience of my entire life up until that point. Seeing Niagara Falls from above just took my breath away and I kept looking at this natural wonder in complete and utter awe. The sight took made me forget about my fear of heights and all I was preoccupied with was taking pictures, which are more powerful than any words.

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Dinosaurs with a Flower and a Tie

The main reason for my trip to North America was the wedding of Miss Exchange, my Canadian counterpart from the student exchange programme I had participated in when I was 16. We had managed to keep in touch all those years and I was thrilled and honoured to be invited to her big day. I flew out to Toronto a week before the wedding to be able to attend the bachelorette party (or hen night as it is called in the UK), help with the final wedding preparations and spend some quality time with my friend, her husband-to-be and some mutual friends.

One particular memory I have is the one from the day before the wedding – the wedding party and I had gone to the wedding hall to give the decorations a final touch; and this is how these amazing centrepieces for the drinks reception tables came about.

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Actually Miss Supermum, a bridesmaid, and a groomsman were just silly and had been fooling around with the plastic dinosaurs and the artificial purple flowers in the foyer of the wedding hall. They probably did not expect the reaction of the European guest – I squealed in absolute delight when I saw their art work, stating that I thought the centrepiece looked really cool and amazing. My manifestation of joy did not go unnoticed by the bride, who came to the foyer to check what it was all about, and to the absolute shame of Miss Supermum, Miss Exchange seconded my opinion and requested that each table in the foyer be decorated in the same style…. (I don’t think I have been completely forgiven for this yet ….)

I still think that these centrepieces were unique and special – they were a reference to the location where Miss Exchange and Mr Robot got engaged and they completed fitted into the colour scheme of the wedding. After all they are unconventional, and occasionally I love unconventional….

Carousel, swings and icecream

One life lesson I learnt while vacationing in Canada last summer was the following:

If you ever need cheering there is nothing better than a ride on a century old carousel, getting on a swing or enjoying a massive scoop or even too of a homemade maple walnut (insert favourite flavour here) ice-cream, produced out of local products from the Niagara region. All three combined are even better.

Well writing about it and looking at the pictures helps too 🙂

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A sunny day in Manhattan

The snow has returned to Luxembourg, which means chaos on the streets. My daily 30-minute journey home turned into a 2 hour snail trail through the traffic today. This would have been an opportunity to listen to some music, but the internet service through my network provider was simply not working, so no access to YouTube. That is why I decided to take out my notebook and pen and continue writing on a post about a travel memory which had sprung to my mind last weekend. Last Saturday the sun had finally come out, the weather was mild and warm, the temperatures were on the rise and it looked like spring. It was truly wonderful and reminded me of my last day in New York….

On Sunday September 9th, after having eaten my breakfast and finished packing, I left my guest house in East Village to discover the south of Manhattan by foot –my destination: Brooklyn Bridge. As Miss Puss-in-Boots had told me there was absolutely no way I was allowed to leave her favourite city in the world without having seen that bridge. The day was absolutely beautiful in NYC – the temperatures had dropped from mid 30s to bearable high 20s, the humidity was longer 90% but more like 50% (which meant I was not immediately covered in sweat after a few steps), the sun was out and the sky wonderfully blue – the perfect conditions for a walk to discover the various neighbourhoods. As it was the weekend there was also a lot less traffic, less noise, less people rushing around – so I felt a lot more relaxed wandering down the street. It was indeed amazing walking across Brooklyn Bridge – the view from there onto Manhattan was simply phenomenal!

711View onto Manhattan from the Brooklyn Birdge

On way back up North I then discovered by pure coincide a cute little Italian café, Caffè Falai on LaFayette Street in SoHo. I am not sure whether if it was the white interior design, its modern yet charming atmosphere, the little tables and chairs on the street, or the fact that it seemed the only eatery in that street where it was still possible to get a seat, but something about it drew me in (ok, I had walked past it at first on my way to locate Katz’s Delicatessen, however that place was so crowded and busy that I decided to turn back and opt for a calmer brunch option). All the seats outside were taken, which was a shame as I would have loved soak up the sun, instead I was offered a table at window facing the street, which was perfect for people watching.  I ordered from the brunch menu and chose a mouth-watering salad with spinach, mozzarella and goats ’cheese, almonds and berries – it was absolutely delicious. The brunch deal came with a Mimosa (which is an apéritif consisting of Prosecco and orange juice) and that all for only $15. What I particularly liked about the place was that the waiters brought you a basket of bread with a little bowl of olive oil. I just love dunking my bread first in olive oil and then into crushed sea salt – that is soooooo yummy. It was the perfect meal to end a perfect trip – all that was left to do afterwards was settle the bill, head back to my guesthouse, grab my suitcases, hail one of the famous NYC cabs, enjoy the ride to JFK and start the journey back home with my head and heart full of unforgettable memories.

20120909_141407Brunch at Caffè Falai in SoHo, NYC

New York, New York

There is nothing that throws right onto memory lane as much as Alicia Keys’ New York … when I hear that song I feel like I am back on the water taxi on the Hudson River, looking in complete awe at the Statue of Liberty, with the Manhattan skyline in my back, and the sun shining in my face on this hot late summer day (Friday September 7th to be precise). I know it was a bit cliché of the boat company to play Frank Sinatra’s New York as well while stopping in the middle of the river so the tourist could take a decent shot of the imposing landmark, THE symbol of the city that never sleeps, but at that particular moment I did not care, not all, on the contrary it put a massive big happy grin on my face. I completely indulged in that moment, taking in every second of it, soaking it up, knowing that moment would never ever come back. I just felt so privileged to belong to those few people in the world that a) were allowed to travel to the US and be granted entry and b) could afford such a trip. New York has definitely left a mark on me – and I will cherish this for a very long time. Thank you New York!

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A date with Renoir

One of my favourite moments in Boston was visiting the Museum of Fine Arts on August 31st, 2012, which had a special Renoir exhibition on at that time. Renoir has been my favourite painter from the moment I studied the Impressionist in my year 12 art class and I have  been in love with Pierre-Auguste Renoir and his paintings ever since, There was therefore no better way to celebrate our 10 year anniversary than with an afternoon date in this Bostonian museum.  I was particularly captured by the painting entitled the “Boating Couple”.

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Looking at this couple, which is said to be Aline Charigot and Pierre-Auguste Renoir himself, let my imagination just run wild and I kept wondering what it would have been like meeting the young Renoir in person. I wish I could just have climbed into that boat, taking Aline’s place and enjoyed a sunny afternoon with Renoir in the French countryside.

I was also highly impressed by the trilogy of full lengthy paintings, depicting dancing couples in various settings, which Renoir had created in 1883. Danse à Bougival is a permanent piece exhibited at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, whereas Danse à la ville and Danse à la campagne were on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I was therefore incredibly fortunate being able to see all three dancing paintings next to each other in one place.


317Pierre-Auguste Renoir –  Danse à Bougival 

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir –  Danse à la campagne 

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir – Danse à la ville 

I was mesmerised to say the least – and I wished, silly me, that Renoir would materialise out of the blue, sit next to me on the bench, stretch out his hand and ask me “Alors, ma belle, voulez-vous danser avec moi?” (So my beautiful, would you like to dance with me?). I would just nod,  let Renoir take my hand and we would dance to a song, a melody only the two of us could hear. In my imagination he would twirl me around the room like a gentleman until eventually I would laugh, laugh a laughter that came deep down from my tummy, a laughter of a carefree happiness. 

Looking at those paintings again feels like I have been put in a time capsule which sent me back in the past, to a time, place and day where I was happy and free, where my world was in order, where I was healthy without worry or fear. Happy times.