Tag Archive | weekend

Weekend Brunch-at-home Idea: Guacamole, Bacon and Poached Egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

In Geneva, there are few good Sunday brunch places but can be very pricey! And I must say, the best brunch I’ve had in Geneva was probably when we did a potluck brunch at a friend’s place. So, When I don’t have anything to do on a weekend, I usually get inspired to whip out something from my fridge and treat myself for a yummy brunch.

I woke up today craving for a salade Lyonnaise but, of course, at 10 am I found it too early for that. I opened my fridge to survey who needs saving and saw an avocado, cherry tomatoes and some lemons. So, I thought I’d make myself some guacamole with tomatoes (I’m normally a purist when it comes to guacamole but it’s brunch and my tomatoes need saving).

As I was doing my guacamole, I realised that I’m really craving for bacon. I’ve been cutting down on meats lately for a healthier diet and I decided that Sunday is bacon day because I’ve been good at going to the gym and yoga this week too.

Then, I also thought that why not make it like salade Lyonnaise? with a poached egg! So, there it was, my yummy brunch!

Here’s how I put them all together: 1-2 servings

Guacamole, bacon and egg

Guacamole, bacon and egg

(I love cooking but I’ve never shared a recipe before and I just always wing it in the kitchen. So, by all means check other recipes for more detailed instructions or measurements)

1 Avocado, mashed

1/2 medium-sized red onion, minced

1/2 lemon

4 pieces of cherry tomatoes, diced

1-inch of a thick pancetta, diced (maybe 3-4 slices of bacon?)

1 egg (2 if you plan to serve for 2)

1 slice of bread per serving (I used a Schard gluten free bread for this), toasted

salt, pepper and wild olive oil (any olive oil will do but I love this wild olive oil I got in Spain recently)

Combine the mashed avocado, minced red onion, diced tomatoes and lemon in a bowl. Mix them evenly. Taste and add salt and wild olive oil, as required. The wild olive oil has a peppery taste to it that I love that’s why I’ve been using it a lot lately. Done with guacamole.

Put the pancetta or bacon in a skillet (without oil) and turn up the heat. Watch out though… don’t burn them!

For the poached eggs, I like them runny. There are hundreds of video tutorial for poaching eggs out there. Try what you think is the most effective and easy. For my poached egg, in a simmering pot of water, I put a table spoon of vinegar, whirled the water and dropped the egg carefully (it is easier for me when I crack the egg in a ramekin first and not dropping the egg straight from the shell to the pot). I let it simmer for a minute then covered the pot for another 2 minutes. To make it less runny, I guess you just need to leave for another 30-60 seconds.

I put a generous amount of guacamole on the toasted bread, then the pancetta and lastly the poached egg. I garnished it with some parsley, salt, pepper and paprika.

There you go! Bon appetite!

2014 Travel Recap: The Year of Spontaneous Trips (Part 1)

I’m known to my friends as a very organized traveler, to the point of being horrified by spontaneous trips. In 2014, I must say that I got better with this spontaneous business – from road trip to Italy to weekend hiking to the mountains.

Birthday celebration in Milan

Milan's Duomo in the evening

Milan’s Duomo in the evening is beautifully surrounded by lights

I’ve only been to Milan once and we were just transiting to Lugano in 2011. From that experiencing, I thought Milan was nothing special – just a big shopping city. So, when my friends told me that we should celebrate our birthday in Milan, I must admit I was a little apprehensive about it. I thought: there are so many other beautiful places, why choose Milan? In the end, I agreed to do it. To help raise my enthusiasm for the trip, I read a lot about Milan and research on places to go to. Eventually, I learned from the trip that Milan is so much more than shopping and it is a city with lots of character. I went back to Geneva falling in love with Italy – the culture, the history, the food… yes, the food.

After my birthday, another friend of mine realized that the long Easter holiday was fast approaching and there’s no way we are getting stuck in Geneva. Since we didn’t have proper preparation, all the flights to the nice European destinations cost an arm and a leg. So yes, I suggested going back to Italy… this time, somewhere close to the Mediterranean.

The convent of Santa Maria delle Grazzie is where Leonardo da Vinci's the famous last supper is found

The convent of Santa Maria delle Grazzie is where Leonardo da Vinci’s the famous last supper is found

 

A day trip in Morges to see the Tulips

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Morges is less than an hour drive from Geneva and it is famous for its tulips festival in the spring. I’ve heard so much about this tulips festival but have never gone to in my 4 years in Geneva. So, when we had the opportunity to go there last year to check out the festival, we borrowed a friend’s car and just drove there on Sunday.

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Easter road trip in Genoa and the Italian Riviera

Genoa - Italy's oldest port town. Also known as the home of delicious pesto and birth place of Christopher Colombus

Genoa – Italy’s oldest port town. Also known as the home of delicious pesto and birth place of Christopher Colombus

For Easter, my friend and I borrowed a friend’s car and drove to Genoa. Yes, this is one of my first spontaneous trips of 2014. None of us have ever driven to Italy and the only preparation we made was to book a hotel. The only thing I knew about Genoa that time was it is where pesto originated. We got lost several times, even with a sat nav, and took us an hour going around, finding our hotel. One day, we also drove by the cost, with the goal to have lunch at Portofino, and we ended in another town (thinking we were in Portofino). Despite those challenges, Genoa and the Italian Riviera captured my heart and most especially my taste buds! There was no place we went to that we didn’t love the food.

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Cave overt in Satigny

 

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In May, we also participated to the famous caves ouvertes in Geneva (well, the caves were actually outside Geneva) and we went biking! Yes, it was wine tasting combined with hardcore biking. It was probably an 8-10 km (at least) of biking through unpaved roads and extremely steep hills and at the end of the road, you get to drink as many types of wine as you can. It was so much fun! 2014 was also my fist dry caves ouvertes – it always rains during caves ouvertes.

Hotel Review: Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu

A couple of friends and I just spent a weekend in Lyon to relax and take a break from our routines. Whenever I organize this kind of weekend getaway with my friends, I always prioritize finding a good accommodation. For this trip, I had to look for a hotel that: 1) close to the train station (we were arriving quite late in the evening); 2) can comfortably accommodate 3 people in 1 room; 3) reasonably priced but will make us feel privileged. This hotel was a winner.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu is located at 50 rue de la Villette. The hotel is conveniently located right next to the train station and has easy access to the metro, trams, and bus lines that go to the main tourists areas such as the old town, the shopping street, etc.

From Geneva, we took the train to Gare de la Part Dieu (Lyon’s main train station). The train travel takes about 2 hours. At Gare de la Part Dieu, we took the “Porte Alpes” exit (the train station has 2 exits and the other exit is quite a walk to the hotel because you’ll end up going around several blocks).  Upon exiting the train station, on your right, you’ll immediately find a building of several hotels and Hotel Mercure is one of them.

From the hotel, going to the old town or town center is easy. Take the C3 bus from the “Thiers – Lafatte” bus station (from the hotel, walk towards the train station – I think it’s a block or 3-5 minute walk from the train station). Take the C3 bus going Gare Saint-Paul. The old town is the end of the line/terminal Gare Saint-Paul while you can get off from Cordeliers or Hotel de Ville to reach/walk around the town center.

Rooms and Facilities (4/5)

We had the privilege room, which can accommodate 3 persons (our room had a double bed and a single bed) and it was quite spacious. It has an impressively big bathroom and the designs and equipment are very modern. I was impressed that they have a Nespresso machine in the room and they offer cold drinks (water, juice, soda) in a mini fridge for free. The quality of the bed and pillows is very good.

The reception is manned 24/7 and the elevators are pretty new. Although we didn’t try, I noted that the hotel has a restaurant, which is convenient in case you too tired from travelling to go out and eat but would like to have a proper meal.

The free wifi was pretty fast although on our first night, we weren’t getting enough signal in our room therefore we weren’t able to use it. This seems to be just a glitch though since we woke up with a full wifi signal the following day.

The restaurant had a really breakfast buffet. As non-Europeans, when we say breakfast, we mean pancakes, sausages, scrambled eggs, bacons, etc. The patisseries were also fresh and even warm. They also had bio options, which for me was a really good option to have.

Staff and Services (4.5/5)

The staff were very friendly and helpful. Checking in was very quick.

The staff at the breakfast buffet were very accommodating and were checking with us if we needed anything every now and then – a kind of customer service I don’t frequently experience in Europe.

Security (4.5/5)

I love the fact that the elevators were accessible only with the key card. The entrance door also locks up at certain hours in the evening and only the receptionist can open the door – my friends and I were coming back to our hotel quite late and we never had a problem coming in since there’s always someone at the reception 24/7.

Price (4.5/5)

The privilege room rate was EUR 326 (without breakfast) for 2 nights and there were 3 of us. It’s like EUR 55 per person per night for us. This was such a good deal for a 4-star hotel.

Total   : 4.3/5 – Hotel Mercure Lyon la Part Dieu is highly recommended for those who are looking for a hotel close to the train station. True, it is quite far from the city center but the public transportation in Lyon is so easy and convenient that it doesn’t actually matter. It location is so much convenient especially for those who are arriving late in the evening at the Part Dieu train station. It is also not as expensive, considering we had the privilege room.

The Other Side of Milan: A 3-hr Walking Tour

When my friends told me we are going to Milan for a weekend to celebrate our birthdays, my first question was: “Why Milan?” She answered: “To do shopping, what else?” Since the group pretty much decided that we’re going to Milan and I wasn’t really up for shopping for 2 ½ days, I managed to convince them to do something that is not related to shopping – like seeing the Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.

One thing about viewing the Last Supper is that you have to book it in advance – at least that’s what everybody says. This is where I came across with the City Wonders’ Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Best of Milan Walking Tour… and I’m glad we’ve taken this tour. At first, my friends were apprehensive with the 3-hr walking tour since 2 of them just recovered from a leg and a hip injury. Second, I’ve been travelling a lot in Europe and I’ve only done a guided tour once in Barcelona – it was horrible. After that, I lost faith in guided tours with patronizing tour guides who automatically thinks all Asians are Chinese. However, as we only had limited to tour Milan and I was too busy at work to do a research on Milan, we ended up getting the 3-hr walking tour.

Booking

Getting a reservation with City Wonders’ Last Supper was much easier than shopping online. I just went to their website (http://www.lastsuppertickets.com/last_supper_tour.aspx), paid in credit card, and I instantly got an email confirmation. The instructions on the meeting place and how to get there are very clear.

Price

The price of the tour is EUR 65 per adult (it’s EUR 60 for children). For me, this is already a good deal since it already includes the Last Supper tickets… and being able to skip lines is the most convenient thing ever.

The Tour Guide

Recalling my traumatic experience with a tour guide in Barcelona? Rafaella, our tour guide was the exact opposite of that dude. With Rafaella, 3 hours went like minutes! She was very knowledgeable about her city and I felt how passionate she is about telling Milan’s story to people too. She is fluent in English with an Italian accent – very easy to understand. She was super funny and very accommodating. I was very much impressed by how much she managed to connect with everyone despite being in a group of 20ish people.

The Tour

Milan's Duomo is the fifth largest cathedral in the world.

Milan’s Duomo is the fifth largest cathedral in the world.

I enjoyed the tour very much and I must say, I learned a lot! A big part of it was, again, Rafaella – our very good tour guide. As mentioned, skipping the line in Duomo and the Last Supper is everything! When we arrived in Duomo, the line was insanely long. Then, Rafaella said we were actually entering the side entrance, which is exclusive for guided tours – I guess. That must have saved us from falling in line for at least 30 minutes. In Duomo, we learned fascinating trivia about its structure, the statues, the works, etc. These are the things that we won’t know just by going inside, perhaps unless you buy a guide book or something. The Last Supper was of course the highlight of the tour and was the last part of the tour. As what Rafaella said, if you were disappointed by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, you won’t be with the Last Supper. I’m not a big art fan – in fact, I get bored at every Picasso museum I’ve been to. I see art stuff because of their historical significance or in lay man’s term – just for the sake of saying I’ve seen it. But the Last Supper, I literally stared at it in amusement and with genuine appreciation of its history and significance. It was also because Rafaella was giving great trivia about it – something you won’t get if you view the Last Supper without a tour guide.

Also, don’t worry if you think that 3 hours of walking is too long. As I said, the tour is very interesting and especially if you get a really good tour guide, 3 hours will pass by like minutes. In addition, Rafaella took us in a café for a good 10-15-minute break. This gave us an opportunity to talk to the other tourists and ask Rafaella for food and restaurant recommendations while having amazing coffee.

Recommendation/s

I definitely recommend City Wonders’ Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Best of Milan Walking Tour to everyone who is going to Milan. I guarantee that after the tour, you will see Milan in a different way – it’s not just a shopping city.

One recommendation I can give is take the 14.30H tour, which finishes at 17.30H. The timing is perfect for an aperitif after the tour to rest a bit and talk about the tour with your friends then go to dinner.

To learn more about the tour, click here.

Hotel Review: ADI Doria Grand Hotel, Milan, Italy

A couple of friends and I drove to Milan for the weekend and we stayed at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel – a 4-star hotel. While it was my first time to stay in this hotel, it was my friend’s third time and she refuses to stay in other hotels in Milan. I enjoyed my stay in Doria Grand Hotel and I understood why my friend loves staying there.

Location/Accessibility (4/5)

A classic, double bed, room at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel

A classic, double bed, room at the ADI Doria Grand Hotel

ADI Doria Grand Hotel is located at Viale Andrea Doria 22, 20124 Milan. The hotel is conveniently located across the Milan central train station. With the GPS navigator, we also didn’t have a hard time finding the hotel. From the airport, we were told that the hotel is about 53 – 55 km away and you can take the train as a cheapest option.

The hotel is 5-minutewalk to Corso Buenos Aires (a more or less 1.5 km stretch of shops). For us, it was pretty convenient when we did our shopping. Two of my friends just recently recovered from injuries therefore we had to take the cab a lot to go to the tourist sites and restaurants. From the hotel to Duomo, a cab ride usually cost us EUR 10-12.

Rooms and Facilities (3/5)

We had the classic, double bed, room. As I often say in my hotel reviews, one thing about Europe is that hotel rooms are normally small. In this case, the room size is pretty much with in my expectations of European hotels. The room is pretty, in a classic way, and fully equipped with television, safe box, mini bar, hair dryer, phone, etc… it is a 4-star hotel after all. I was particularly impressed with the bathroom’s size. It was quite spacious. When I was reading reviews about this hotel, I saw some comments that the furniture is old or something like that. The thing is, that’s the hotel’s theme – vintage. One might find the lighting a bit too dark too as they have thick curtains and yellow lights.

A comment though is that we were booked at the 1st floor, which seemed to allow smoking. Although we don’t smell it in our room, the lobby smelled all the time. Therefore, if you don’t like to smell cigarettes first thing in the morning after leaving your room, you might want to ask for a non-smoking floor. Another minor comment was the toiletries (soap, cotton, cotton buds, etc.) – for some reason, we only had one of set of toiletries in the bathroom. I personally don’t mind since I usually bring my own stuff when I travel. However, if there’s one thing that my friend and I needed was a shower cap and they only provided one, I guess for us to share. Moreover, it was a disposable shower cap yet they didn’t change it the entire time. Again, this is a minor detail but just noting it since it was my first time to encounter such problem with a 4-star hotel in Europe.

The hotel conveniently has parking garage too. I think it’s like EUR 28 per day.

Staff and Services (4/5)

The staff members are friendly and helpful. Initially though, when we asked for restaurant recommendations in a certain area, the receptionist told us “you will find many pizzerias in the area”. But that was just one incident and with one person because the rest of our stay there, the other reception staff were very helpful to us and provided us good recommendations on shops and restaurants.

Security (4.5/5)

The reception desk is open 24/7. I could give it a 5/5 but the garage felt like you’re in a horror flick and can be accessed by non-clients.

Price (4.5/5)

We paid EUR 270 for 2 nights with breakfast. For a 4-star hotel in a good location, I say that’s an awesome rate! The breakfast was not bad at all. There’s a city tax of EUR 10 per person.

Cleanliness (4/5)

I would have given it a 5/5 but the smoking floor bothered me a little.

Total   : 4/5 – I definitely recommend ADI Grand Doria Hotel to friends and colleagues if travelling in Milan and I can definitely stay in this hotel again if I go back to Milan.

Weekend Recap

It was a slow yet a fruitful weekend for me.

Saturday morning, I woke up at record-breaking 11ish. I normally like to wake up early, even on a Saturday, but since I only got home at around 3.00 that morning, I decided to just sleep it in the whole morning. I had brunch – sausage, egg and fried rice – before heading out to the supermarket at around 1.00 pm. Yes, not only I woke up late but I was moving extremely slow that day (nothing related to my partying that night because I didn’t really do any serious drinking). After going to the supermarket, I thought of going to Ikea to finally buy a book shelf. I also thought of going to the town center to buy some clothes for my Nice trip. But then again, I didn’t feel like shopping or buying anything that day. I just wanted to read my Clash of the Kings book and write. I ended up biking at the park and reading under the sun, while munching a cheeseburger and fries, until around 5.30 pm. It’s nice to feel the sun again!

When I got home that afternoon, I started craving for a Java Chip frapuccino so I dashed out of my apartment and went to Starbucks. The cool thing about my apartment is that I am just a stone-throw away from the tram station and I am only 3 short stops from the Gare Cornavin, yet my area is still very “residential”. The nearest Starbucks from my place is the one at the Gare Cornavin. At the Starbucks, I saw my friends Charmi and Christine so we had a little chat.

In the evening, I was still quite full from the cheeseburger and fries snack I had at the park so for dinner, I only had my favorite mozzarella and tomatoes with olive oil. I had my dinner while watching American Idol. I will say it again: Jessica is a great singer but Colton and Phil are artists – I still think at this point that they are doing doing the finale. Colton had my attention that on that episode – I didn’t know he’s a Christian. As a Christian, I am proud that he chose to sing a worship song that night and declare that God is his everything. Brave thing to do in a competition where being “cool” is supposedly the wisest thing to do – Jimmy dissed him out for being emotional. Well, Jimmy, praising God from your heart tends to give you an overwhelming emotions – you should try it sometime.

Sunday morning, I went to my church in France with Christine. I was so blessed by the message that morning. The topic was still on Hebrews and we had a guest pastor. My church in France is just 5-10 minutes away from Geneva but one thing that makes it difficult on weekends is the bus schedule – bus only arrives every after 30 minutes. That noon, we missed the bus by a minute so Christine and I prayed that a Filipino with a car will pass by and give us a ride back to Geneva – God is faithful, he did give us a ride! 🙂

It was almost 1 pm when I got back in Geneva and I was feeling lazy to cook lunch so I went to my favorite Italian restaurant in Geneva, which is just a block away from my apartment. Again, it was a lovely day so I ate outside and took out my book to read. I ordered for a spaghetti carbonara but the waiter brought me a spaghetti bolognese instead. Well, I don’t really mind because their bolognese is my one of my classic favorites so I didn’t complain.  When I got to my apartment, I had facetime with my family in the Philippines – my sister told me that our baby Doodle has been a very bad boy lately. I miss our dogs!

After our little chat, I started writing my John Carter entry for mashed-up lines. It took me almost 4 hours to write it  – this only means that I need to write more because I’m getting rusty! By 9 pm, I started preparing my stuff for work. At 10 pm, it was my long awaited Gossip Girl + The Vampire Diaries night ( I always watch my GG & TVD recordings on a Sunday night). I don’t like the Blair & Dan thing but I think Serena should be with Nathan. As for TVD, don’t get me started… I’m so in love with Stefan right now! And I love that they are showing Klaus’ “humanity” side at the moment.

So that’s how my weekend went by. I am pretty pleased with it actually. Next week’s going to be a long weekend but I also have a long to-do-list.

Ciao!

xx ~I.