Luxembourg & Tartiflette: two new discoveries

I don’t remember how many times I’ve been to Luxembourg, but I do recall that every time I went there I got the same feeling: bored! No sparks to it and most of the people who go visit it have the same impression.

But this week-end we went and visited some friends who moved there from Belgium and got some pretty interesting insights. I must say, I never thought I would say this, but Luxembourg is looking pretty good now. Our dear friends are known to be explorers and always into discovering the places they live in, travel to or just pass by. So, I think this help them see Luxembourg from a different perspective and pass on this new discovery.

Luxembourg Center

Besides the fact that taxes are dreamy, in comparison to Belgium where they tax the air you breath, it appears to be opened to internationals, rich in culture, kids friendly, plenty of things to enjoy and of course well geographically positioned. But I let you make up your own mind when you get there.

Another thing I discover was the tartiflette. I know, it’s not Luxembourgish, it’s French, but never had it until now. Waw, it was an explosion of flavor, carbs using  such simple ingredients. Simply surprising! It is a winter dish, but seriously, have it whenever you can. You only get potatoes, loads of cheese, bacon, sour cream and other beautiful secrets to make a fantastic down to earth dish.

Delicious, fatty tratiflette

It got me thinking how easy it is to label a place, a person or whatever and how difficult it is to change up your mind afterwards. This trip helped me realize that I have misjudged Luxembourg. Additionally, didn’t even know how such a simple dish can be so delicious and surprising.

I don’t know if we will ever move to Luxembourg, but I am sure I will eat again tartiflette. I will keep it though for special occasions, it’s a whole event to digest it 🙂

Thank you Fiona & Rasmus for being so welcoming, day trips to Luxembourg are more tempting now!

Eliminate stress before IT eliminates you!

It’s so weird that one of the most common diseases today is stress. That’s right, it’s not something that snobs suffer from, or random illness you hear about in the movies. It’s too real and too present.

I first experienced some serious stress about 2 years ago when I had too many things happening at the same time. I couldn’t get rid of any of them, unless I would hide in a cave and get out in some years. Truth is that you can’t just run away from your life. Well, you can, but that’s not best case scenario. So, you just have to man up and deal with it!

Overburdened

But I know first hand it’s not that easy. You might not even realize what you are suffering from is stress, you’re probably treating yourself for God knows what. Stress can affect your nerves, muscles, give you headaches (even migraines), mess up your intestines, give you major panic attacks, play with your emotions, simply freeze your body, and so on! You can become totally hypochondriac. Don’t freak out! Not everything that twitches, hurts and is slightly out of the ordinary is a fatal illness.

Obviously this affects all the aspects of your life, you literally feel as if you are out of time and space and just observing life from a distance. It can be sad to feel like things are happening around you, but you’re not really participating. It’s horrible! Especially in the beginning or if it gets bad really fast it’s pretty hard to control it and get back to normal. So, don’t be surprised if you’er not as efficient at work, no energy when you get home, no desire to spend time with people or do any activity. No surprise at all!!

There are many reasons why this happens, but I think one good explanation is the way we were built. If you’re a guy, by nature you will react to circumstances differently. Guys have it in their nature to solve problems, not just complain about it as we girls enjoy doing. Also, guys see problems in little boxes that they deal with depending on priority and urgency. They can have a day the size of a house, but come back home and have such simple ways to relax.  They read or watch the news, watch a game or cars, just anything that releases some testosterone can help them recharge their batteries. Most guys prefer not talking about what bothers them, they just want to solve it and be done with it.

Unfortunately, girls see everything as a whole, we can’t really splits our stress points and solve them one by one. That’s why we get so overwhelmed. If work is too much, pressure at home, maybe too much traffic, migraines, too many activities…for women this is like a heavy weight that we carry on our back. We can’t prioritize, everything must be done and dealt with right now. Guys, watch it, don’t try to solve our problems, we don’t want that. The first and foremost thing we want to do is to talk about, in details, over and over until we’re sick of it 🙂 So, learn to listen. Just how women have to learn not to bug guys when they need their space.

I am aware that we all need a bit of stress to give us adrenaline and push us to strive for better. But coming back to how too much stress can affect your body and indirectly your entire life, here are some pieces of advice that could help you to start solving your stress issue:

  • if you are religious, faith is something that keeps you going!
  • for your own peace of mind, just go and get a full check-up if you don’t feel well
  • analyze what are your major stress point and try to eliminate them or minimize them
  • EXERCISE!! it will save your life
  • eat healthy
  • in case of women, meet-up with your girls who are aware of your situation & understand  and just have girly time, pamper yourself, go to a spa, anything that you know relaxes you
  • in the case of guys, go to your “cave”, have your alone time and decompress.
  • get enough sleep!!
  • don’t overbook your agenda if you need to rest, take it easy, at least for a while.

With so much going around us and so many things on our list, we are bound to have stress. Mind you, it’s more powerful than it looks, so I do advice you to take the bull by the horns and see what changes you have to do today! Avoid stress at all costs and discover what works for you to get to a balanced and happy life.

Thank you Fernando for understanding and being so supportive!

Peruvian flava’ in Antwerp

We were invited by some friends (one of them being Peruvian) to a Peruvian restaurant in Antwerp. Sure, why not? Latin food, can’t go wrong! Well, we got more than we bargained for. It was an eight course meal! My goodness, we ate so much that I didn’t need food for a while. Each meal was small, so we didn’t realize we were way too full until the end.

The place is very cosy and decorated with pretty murals and some paintings made by one of

The interior of El Sabor Andino

the owners. There are so many utensils brought form Peru and the entire place is decorated with many traditional objects. But, the best about it is the food. I already tasted Latin American food and one thing they have in common is corn!

Apparently, Peru has more than just one type: white, yellow and black (and maybe more). Yes, I wrote black!

The ceviche & causas filled with tuna

Oh, we had champagne included! First, we started with two beautiful dishes: ceviche and Causa rellena with tuna. Behold my high quality photos! It was really good. The caussa rellena (filled) with tuna and decorated with avocado and pepper was creamy and easy to finish in 1 minute 🙂 The ceviche had fish fille, coquilles and shrimp with coriander & onion 🙂 delish, I dipped bread in the glass to be sure I get all of it!

Oh my goodness, please under no circumstance, do not touch the chilli that comes with the ceviche, it’s evil. I only touched with my lips and I thought I was going to choke and drop right there. To make things worse, I touched my eyes by accident with my fingers. The horror! I spend 10 minutes in the bathroom to get my sight back! Anyway, avoid it and you’re fine 🙂

Next, we had a palmito soup that was so creamy, slightly sour and tasted like nothing I ate

Palmito Soup, Papas ala Huancaina, Quinoa Soup & Beef heart

before. Again, cleaned the plate with bread, I wanted more 🙂 I think Latin America is not big with soups, but the ones they have they nail it! Quickly after, we got to the main dish, the first one 🙂 A trio of papa ala huancaina (potatoes with boiled eggs with delicious sauce), beef heart (what?! yeah, too chewy for my taste) and chicken. But it wasn’t just any chicken, it was made pané with quinoa. I didn’t even know quinoa existed until recently! 🙂 but it was a great discovery.

Wait, we’re not done yet! Last, but not least rice (ever present) with pork and lamb stew (prepared separately) I don’t like lamb, so I only had pork. Waw, so tender and tasty! I’m not sure I can figure out all the ingredients, but it didn’t look very complicated. It was a perfect ending. We didn’t have dessert and I was happy. I was so full, I could barely stand up and you can’t just refuse a dessert. So, it was better the meal finished there! What a feast!!

I recommend you try this restaurant! Of course, you can just have a decent meal, not taste the whole menu like we did. Ah, don’t be surprised, the chef is Belgian, but married to a Peruvian. Also, for the true connaisseurs, you can have local beverages, like Inca Cola 🙂

 Go to El sabor Andino for a delightful taste of Peru!

The day I really enjoyed Paris

By now, I have been to Paris a number times, but I can only remember 2 of my trips there that are dear to me. Paris is a magical place and everyone should go see it. If you haven’t and you can, plan it right now! It’s the city of lights, romance, crêpes, souvenirs, desperate crowds of tourists and so on…loosing my breath with this enumeration

The first time I saw Paris, I felt like a kid in Disneyland, it was superb! I was happy I could share it with a dear friend who was also seeing Paris for the first time! This meant that we had  the same urge to see everything, go everywhere, try whatever we saw, express our amazement and delight at every step and cherish the city! It was better than expected!

The only problem with this trip was that desperation & frenzy to see everything, touch all the buildings and go on top of the Eiffel tower, take literary thousands of pictures.  But, Paris is a city that you have to savour, breath its air, have your eyes wide open and simply enjoy your moments there.

So, last year (2011) for Bastille day, together with some friends we hopped in the car and drove to Paris.  At 10AM we were there.  I was excited as it was my first time to drive in Paris and for the connaisseurs, it’s no easy job. Anyway, we were 5 and 4 of us already knew Paris. So, we decided to give to our 5th friend a short city tour. She didn’t have any special requests, only what we considered it’s most worth while.

Perfect! It was beautiful, I was in Paris with no camera (and I love taking photos) just

enjoying the city, the sun, my friends and for the first time delight in just walking around and absorb that feeling that you only get in the city of romance. I enjoyed Paris like never before!

We were there on Bastille Day, CRAZY!!! It was estimated that 1 million people gathered around the Eiffel Tower to see the fireworks. To get out of the crowds took us around a hour and then another hour to get to the car.

The scene displayed in front of us was absolutely magnificent. This memory will stay dear to me, our picnic on the pavement of the Paris, just staring at the Eiffel Tour. I do have to mention that the fireworks were more than 1 hour late, so we were about 1 million people just staring at a radio antena 🙂

I got home at 5am and back at work at 10am. Had to finish an important project that day. Must say it was quite difficult to concentrate with 2 hours of sleep and too many hours of driving and sightseeing 🙂 But it was all worth it just to see this view here! GO to Paris on Bastille Day and experience another side of this unique place!!

Thank you Adriana for enjoying & sharing Paris for the first time with me. Thank you Jodi for the idea! Thank you Ben & Julz for convincing me! Thank you Emily for  for these wonderful pictures! I would do it again in a blink of an eye!

Living in Brussels, bliss or lesson learnt

Living in Brussels as an expat is like living in a bubble, detached from the local reality. NO need to speak any of the official languages. English or sign language will do just fine.

I think the greatest thing about this city is that it’s small enough to get around easily, but extremely international for its size. So, no worries, you’ll have 10 friends already in your first week here. Networking is not an issue, it’s a constant opportunity.

It’s so strategically positioned, that you can basically reach 5 countries in just a few hours. Isn’t that cool, to be able to travel to 5 different cultures, see so many places in just 1 or 2 hours? Car, train, plane, you name it, you’re there in no time. Most of the people who come to Brussels whether it is for just some months, years or unlimited immediately start travelling like crazy! And you should do too!

Comfortable life is what you get with an average job. This is not limited to those in executive positions, but to most people with decent jobs and salaries. If you want more than conformable, than that’s a different story.

A bit of everything for everyone! Interested in sports, volunteering, religious, etc. A simple google search will help you connect with some group that has the same interests.

Means of transportation or bike will take you everywhere! I mean it, everywhere! If you live and work in Brussels, there’s not much need for a car. Having a car in Brussels is a pain! Nevertheless, if you do have a car, that’s perfect for day trips in Belgium and around, the infrastructure is marvellous.

If you enjoy food, there are plenty of good, varied, weird and standard restaurants to pick from. Don’t be shy, go and try whatever you find, it’s really amazing the flavours you can discover and eventually like. I’m pretty unsurprising to some extent, I love Italian and Japanese. Seriously, I love it! My friends all know by now that they should not cook Italian for me, especially pasta unless they are Italians or lived in Italy for enough years to master cooking it. Luckily for me, there are enough beautiful and authentic Italian restaurants in Brussels to satisfy my delight (Try Caneva for the most amazing ravioli with black truffles!!). So, go ahead and explore the international cuisine in Brussels.

There are plenty of items that can throw you off, but with a bit of luck you can dodge a bullet, so you’re good to go. One of the worst things is bureaucracy!! It’s crazy!! There are so many papers to fill in, to sign, to look for and legalise. Of course, if you’re a full EU member you’re almost safe, no need to go through any excruciating process. But, for the rest, prepare for impact.

Lack of services is something that will piss you off for at least the first 6 months. After this period of adaptation, you will either leave the country or just give in and accept that no service provider in this country cares about your request. You just have to wait between 8am and 1pm and hope the technician will come, wait for a month for a doctor’s appointment, a blasé attitude, that we just have to accept things how they are, etc.  These can drive you nuts, especially if you are a goal-getter, want to get things done or just have some common sense.

This next one is not only for Brussels, but for the entire country. Taxes! They love taxes! High, legally unavoidable and condemn you to a life of middle class person. Putting up a business is not encouraged here.

Oh, in Brussels, Belgians are a rare sight. So if you get your hands on one, hold on to them! Stats say that only about 1/3 are Belgians in Brussels, the rest are all foreigners. On the upside, you will hear a multitude of languages and for sure your own as well. Downside, not much mingling with the locals.

But to understand all these, one should have his own taste of the city, or its beer or waffles 🙂 whichever comes first