I’ve spent some days in Sweden, meeting up with some very good friends of mine. Saturday we celebrated Anita’s birthday by visiting beautiful Bjertorp Castle, north of Gothenburg.
When we entered the castle, I almost expected to meet Mrs Hyacinth Bucket, from “Keeping up the appearance”. She was not there, but Mr.Bear greeted us welcome, and was highly appreciated by the children.
The castle has extraordinary surroundings and the garden was so beautiful. After the two hour car drive, it was good for all of us to take a stroll, and enjoy the first day of autumn in these royal frames.
We then proceeded with the birthday celebration, and enjoyed the traditional English afternoon tea, provided by the restaurant at Bjertorp castle.
Just a week ago, a film producing company wrapped up their work on the big screen movie “Hotell” using Bjertorp castle as their location. After spending Saturday afternoon here, we are all looking forward to see the film. And we might go back to visit the castle in December. Imagine the sight of the garden area covered with snow, and the inside of the castle decorated for Christmas!
1. Don’t… get lit in Temple Bar
Once Dublin’s Jewish ghetto, Temple Bar is now home to several bars that drunken tourists in green face paint love to frequent. There are lovely things to see in historic Temple Bar — for example, the Irish Photography Centre, the Temple Bar Music Centre and the Irish Film Institute — but save your tour for the daytime, before things get pagan.
Instead: tie one on like the locals. Head to the area around Georges Street in City Centre or make your way down towards Rathmines. 4 Dame Lane and The Globe for your clubbing clusterfreaks; The Duke, The Bernard Shaw, The Bleeding Horse and Roddy Boland for your beer and GAA matches.
Those in search of the dirty singles scene might entertain the idea of hitting Copper Face Jacks — a local institution, described in disgusted tones by my Dubliner friends as “a meatmarket,” “full of nurses and gardaí (Irish police),” and “hell on earth.” But, you know, wildly popular with the locals.
You’ve been officially warned.
2. Don’t… expect to drink all night
Most pubs close at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights and 1a.m. on weekends. Something about curbing alcoholism. Well done.
Instead: make friends
The party still goes on after-hours in people’s homes. Make sure to hit the off-license before 10:30 p.m. to stock up or you’ll be doubly out of luck.
3. Don’t… try to get inside Oscar Wilde’s birthplace
There are no tours; just would-be writers attending lectures and jumping in shock each time you ring the buzzer and shout: “Oscar Wilde!” I speak from personal experience. 🙂
Instead: visit the Yeats exhibit at Kildare Street. Brilliant. Free. Definitely a museum.
Or if it’s still Oscar you’re after, visit 1 Merrion Square to see the house where he grew up or the Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square.
4. Don’t… call an Irishman (or Irishwoman) British
This goes for the whole of the Republic of Ireland. Want to start a fistfight? Talk about how Dublin is the greatest capital city in the UK; tourist goes down.
Instead: get it right
The Republic of Ireland is independent of the the crown. It has been a Free State since 1922. Northern Ireland is part of the UK.
I might be a bit biased here because I find traditional Irish fare incredibly satisfying: hearty shepherd’s pie, fat pink Irish salmon, mussels, chips and potato boxty — what’s not to like?
Dublin is a vibrant capital city, full of trendy restaurants offering ethnic and traditional specialties. New Irish cuisine puts heavy emphasis on organically sourced ingredients and it’s the norm to find vegan and coeliac options on most menus.
Instead: try Irish classics with a twist
For souped-up takes on home-style Irish classics like fish pie and bangers & mash, try The Farm or The Winding Stair.
Yamamori on Eden Quay has great fresh sushi, or try Fafie’s French Crêperie on Kevin Street for crepes and gallettes. Jo Burger in Rathmines has quite possibly the world’s perfect burger with homemade fixings from the Breton buns to the homemade spicy ketchup and patties of 100% locally sourced beef, chicken and lamb. Prior fasting recommended.
6. Don’t… stick to British Colonial and Irish Civil War historical sights
Dublin’s got serious Viking DNA, dating from the 7th century, and plenty of local pre-history to explore.
Instead: take the Viking Splash Tour
20 Euro gets you a seat on the Viking Splash Tour — a bright yellow amphibious vehicle that parades you around Dublin’s city centre to learn about its Viking past. At the end of the tour, the vehicle slips into the Grand Canal Docklands for a cruise.
Best of all, the tour leader encourages passengers to shout “ARGH!” like Vikings at hapless pedestrians. Bonus: Everyone gets to wear plastic Viking helmets.
Alternatively, visit The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology to see bog people — bodies preserved to eerie near-perfection thousands of years ago in Ireland’s peat bogs. Free admission every day.
7. Don’t…. attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is a Bucket-list goal for many — too many. Try to be content with simply being in-country for the holiday, unless you like vomit-lined streets, exposed genitalia and sidewalk-to-sidewalk crowds.
Instead: head somewhere on the West Coast
The West Coast has less crowds and less tourist nonsense. Try visiting Achill Island for their annual Piper Celebration.
8. Don’t… order a Murphy’s
Why would you? Murphy’s stout comes from Cork!
9. Don’t… expect an “authentic” traditional music session
These days, catching a traditional music session in Dublin is like watching a rodeo in New York City. While you might get some sessions in touristy Temple Bar or at The Duke, you’ll have better luck finding spontaneous traditional Irish music out on the West Coast or in the countryside.
Instead: find Dublin-style standup comedy
On Monday nights, the International Bar at 23 Wicklow Street in City Centre hosts Glór — an open mic poetry, music and writing slam — held in both English and Irish. Brilliant cultural fun.
10. Don’t… take a photo next to Molly Malone
During my first visit to Dublin, my best friend Ingrid forbade me to set foot near the statue of Molly Malone for fear I’d get us pegged as tourists.
Instead: find another idol
Try taking a photo next to the statue of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott on Harry Street or James Joyce at North Earl Street and the Spire for an easier photo op. Dublin has lots of terrific statues that aren’t mobbed by tourists.
Paris’s seductive charms are legendary, and for good reason: Inviting sidewalk cafés, gleaming boutiques, world-class museums, and a fabled restaurant scene make Paris the runway model of cities; beautiful, fashionable, confident, and inspiring envy at every turn. But with expectations running so high, Paris can occasionally disappoint. When you find yourself elbow to elbow with throngs of tennis shoe–wearing tourists, tucking into yet another overpriced meal, you’ll wonder how the Paris has proved so elusive. The city that travellers have fallen in love with for decades, is also the City of Light, were first-timers needs some advice on how to avoid the top ten mistakes.
1. DON’T SHOP ON CHAMPS – ELYSÉES
The Champs-Elysées may once have been the most beautiful avenue in the world, but its fortunes have risen and fallen many times over the years, and it’s currently overrun with global chain stores, auto dealerships, and movie multiplexes. Aside from the über-glam Vuitton flagship, which draws label addicts in droves, you’ll find yourself dodging throngs of teens as you trudge past McDonald’s and Sephora, wondering what in God’s name all the fuss is about. And whatever you do, don’t succumb to hunger on this strip: The cafés prey on tourists, and a local wouldn’t be caught dead in one.
Instead: Follow in the well-heeled footsteps of locals. Die-hard fashionistas should head straight to the designer shops of the Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the chic Marais, while haute-couturistas should point their stilettos in the direction of the Avenue Montaigne, for the likes of Chanel, or the Rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, home of trendsetting concept shop Colette (pictured). For an old-fashioned ambience, look to Paris’s covered passages. Dating back to the 19th century, these were the city’s first malls, and beneath their vaulted ceilings of glass and wrought iron, you’ll find more unusual wares: French designers, but also antiquarian book dealers, art galleries, quirky toy shops, and more. Galerie Vivienne, just north of the Palais Royal, in the second arrondissement, is the most elegant of the lot.
2. Don’t Get Starstruck at Mealtimes
Home to 66 Michelin-starred restaurants, Paris is a gourmet’s paradise. But a lot of pomp and circumstance—not to mention sky-high prices—accompany most of these traditional fine-dining establishments. (The prix fixe dinner at three-star L’Arpège, for example, will set you back a staggering $480. And that’s before wine!) Does the idea of half a dozen waiters hovering buzzardlike around your table sound appealing? Or how about spending as much on dinner as you did on your plane ticket? No, we didn’t think so.
Instead: Have your dinner à la mode. Recently, several Michelin-starred chefs have abandoned the rigid confines of haute-cuisine restaurants to open convivial bistros that serve up simpler (yet still outstanding) meals. And the locals are just crazy about them. Yves Camdeborde’s pioneering Le Comptoir du Relais, in the sixth arrondissement, is so popular that it can be hard to get a table. But once you’re tucking into Camdeborde’s famous foie gras terrine for a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere (the weekday dinner prix fixe is about $68), you’ll understand why the place is booked months in advance. If you can’t get in at dinner, try arriving by 11:45 am for lunch (reservations are not accepted, so it’s first come, first serve). Christian Constant’s charming Café Constant, in the seventh, is another popular option that serves impeccably prepared favorites, such as roast chicken, for a mere $20. Still hell-bent on a Michelin-star meal? Try booking at lunchtime, when many restaurants offer excellent-value prix fixe menus.
3. Don’t Spend All Day at the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay
The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are Paris’s most celebrated museums, and yes, they do house some famous works of art. But don’t for a second think that they’re your only—or, indeed, even your best—options. The lines to get in can be harrowing in high season, the crowds are exhausting, and the sheer quantity of art on display is overwhelming. If the prospect of beating back the hordes seems like it will detract from the experience (and, really, how could it not?), don’t despair.
Instead: Get to know Paris’s lesser-known museums.Many of Paris’s smaller museums contain equally important and beautiful art—and are often more pleasant, since you won’t be elbowed out of the way by a photo-snapping swarm. You’ll find Monet’s famous Nymphéas (water lily) murals in the Musée de l’Orangerie (pictured), at the far end of the Tuileries Gardens. The Musée Marmottan is home to the world’s largest collection of Monets. And the Musée Rodin, housed in a luminous villa with a lovely garden, is one of the most romantic museums in all of Paris. Not in the mood for an art lesson? There are plenty of museums in Paris that focus on lighter and frothier fare, including fashion, wine, and money. Once you’ve discovered the pleasures of these intimate galleries, you might be hard-pressed to bother with the Louvre at all.
4. Don’t Commit a Fashion Faux Pas
For starters, don’t ever, even in the sweltering dog days of summer, think about wearing a pair of shorts in Paris unless you really want to be treated like a hopeless tourist. As the French would say, ça ne se fait pas (it simply isn’t done). And while you’re at it, leave those gleaming white running shoes at home, too. As a general rule, Parisians avoid dressing like they’re going to climb Mount Everest, and while you’re in their town, so should you. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t overdo it just because you’re headed to the world’s fashion capital.
Instead: Take a crash course in French style. Parisian style isn’t really about dressing to the nines; the French are quite casual these days—they’ve just mastered the art of the clean, coordinated look. Here are a few tips to keep your attire simple, tidy, and thoughtfully assembled: Black is always a good bet (or gray, if you really want to go nuts); accessorize with a single bold scarf, hat, or jewel (but, please, not all three at once); and make sure things fit the way they should (no sagging or squeezing). Complete your outfit with a fitted jacket and the best shoes in your closet. The final effect should look utterly effortless.
5. Don’t Get Around Town in a Cab
Paris most definitely isn’t your average American town, or even like other European metropoles. Taxis can be hard to come by and can’t be flagged down on the street (you need to call ahead for one or find a taxi stand). Cabbing around town also leaves you vulnerable to Paris’s famously snarled traffic: Careening to a halt on a narrow one-way street, then watching the meter tick ever upward while you’re trapped behind a double-parked car, is a definite buzzkill.
Instead: Take to heart the French word flâner. While flâner technically means “to stroll,” it more generally suggests “to walk the city in order to experience it”—words to live by in the City of Light. The center of Paris is only a couple of miles wide, maps are ubiquitous, and the rewards for taking to the streets on foot include world-class window shopping, observing flirtatious exchanges taking place in sidewalk cafés, and walking off that extra croissant. Worried about dog droppings? Fear not, the city has cleaned up its act. When going longer distances, hop on the Métro. From any given spot in Paris, you’re never more than 500 yards from the nearest station; it’s cheaper than a cab and often faster, too. So there’s really no excuse—unless you’ve stayed out late (the Métro closes at 2 am on Friday and Saturday nights and 1 am the rest of the week). We wish we could recommend Paris’s inexpensive Vélib’ bikes (the gray models you see lined up on the street), but the rental program is off-limits to most visitors since a smart chip–enabled credit card is required to access the system.
6. Don’t Seek Out Bohemian Ambience on the Left Bank
Sartre and de Beauvoir may have loved Les Deux Magots on the Boulevard St. Germain, but these days, this onetime hangout of intellectuals has all the authenticity of Times Square. You’re far more likely to find yourself cheek by jowl with your tourist brethren than eavesdropping on any famous philosophers. You may, however, find yourself delivering a tirade on the immorality of charging $16 for buttered toast and orange juice. Does gouging tourists for the privilege of sitting on a sidewalk mark the decline of civilization? Yes, indeed.
Instead: Find the “real” Paris on the Canal St. Martin. Bobo (short for bourgeois bohemian) hipsters have laid claim to the area around the Canal St. Martin, a once-derelict part of the tenth arrondissement that now buzzes with cafés and hip boutiques, particularly along the Rue Beaurepaire. Settle at a sidewalk table at Chez Prune, the see-and-be-seen ground zero for this trendy Right Bank ‘hood (36 Rue Beaurepaire; 33-1-42-41-30-47), sip your café crème, eavesdrop on the locals, and enjoy the views of the picturesque canal—and bask in the smug knowledge that you’ve found a corner of real Paris, far from the touristy hordes.
7. DONT WASTE TIME AT THE EIFFEL TOWER
In 2011, 6.6 million people visited the Eiffel Tower and, like lemmings, embarked on the laborious task of reaching the top. After trudging through one labyrinthine line for tickets and re-queuing for the cattle car–like elevators, you’ll start to lose faith in the whole endeavor. And just when you think the ordeal is over, there are the lines to get back to terra firma. All that, only to realize that if you’re experiencing a view from the tower, you can’t actually enjoy the view of it—which is too bad, since it’s the defining feature of the Paris skyline.
Instead: Enjoy dinner and a view. An infinitely more civilized approach to the whole Eiffel Tower business is to book a table at Les Ombres (pictured), the rooftop restaurant of the Musée du Quai Branly. The restaurant’s glass latticework ceiling (like a dragonfly’s wing) makes the most of its tall neighbour by enabling diners to feast their eyes on the tower in its gorgeous entirety while dining on French classics such as foie gras, oysters, and grilled steak. The view is at its most magical at night, when the tower glows ethereally and bursts into manic sparkling every hour. At dinner, main courses start at $40, but there are excellent deals to be had at lunchtime ($34–$52 for two to three courses). Or you can just head to the adjoining salon de thé to toast your savvy tourist skills with an alfresco flute of Champagne.
8. DON’T BOOK THE CHEAPEST HOTEL
Finding a decent Paris hotel for a reasonable price can bring even the savviest travelers to the brink of despair. The city’s hotels are breathtakingly expensive, and with the current conversion rates, they are truly stupefying. You might find a screaming deal at a big chain hotel and think you’ve got it made, but once you’re sitting in a beige I-could-be-anywhere cube on the outskirts of town, you’ll realize that you’re missing out on the Parisian atmosphere in the city center.
Instead: Book a furnished apartment. Furnished apartments can be found to suit absolutely every budget and taste. You’ll be amazed at how much living space you get for your money—especially if you plan to stay for more than a couple of days—and you don’t have to eat out for every meal. The real estate mantra “location, location, location” definitely applies. When in doubt, opt for an apartment in a single-digit arrondissement and check how close the nearest Métro station is. And if the price seems too good to be true, try to find out what they may be hiding. Do-it-yourself services abound (Craigslist, VRBO), but if you want to leave it to the experts, try a rental agency (Paris Perfect, Guest Apartment Services, and Haven in Paris are reputable options). Once you’re in your private pied-à-terre, glass of wine in hand, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood through the open windows, you’ll feel like you’ve truly arrived.
9. DON’T FILL UP ON CROISSANTS
We all swoon over those flaky golden crescents, and we wouldn’t want to deprive you of them. But it would be a big mistake to limit yourself to Paris’s best-known pastries and miss out on deluxe confections that aren’t as well known, or as easily accessible, across the pond.
Instead: Munch on macaroons. Unlike the dense coconut cookies of the same name in the United States, French macaroons—dainty gems that come in a rainbow of colors and increasingly exotic flavours—consist of two meringue like cookies bound together by a delicious ganache. A few patisseries, Ladurée in particular, have been carrying macaroons for ages, but recently these have become the hottest sweet in town, and several top bakers are making their names with novel flavours like cherry amaretto, violet, and white truffle. Debate rages among Parisians over which are the city’s best; to decide for yourself, sample rose at Pierre Hermé, caramel with sea salt at Ladurée, and orange-ginger at Gérard Mulot.
10. DON’T BUY INTO STERIOTYPES
Yes, we’ve all heard plenty about Parisians’ legendary rudeness: The waiters are surly, the salespeople unhelpful, and everyone else is snobby and standoffish. It’s true that Parisians are more reserved than most Americans and less apt to break into wide, toothy grins every time they meet someone new. Theirs is not a culture of instant BFFs and “Hi, how can I help you today?” extroversion. But you won’t be doing yourself any favours by assuming that the locals don’t like you—and then being rude in return.
Instead: Be mindful of your manners. Try to understand (and imitate) the local customs and you’ll no doubt be amply rewarded for your efforts. Do learn a few French words and phrases. Even if it’s just a crash course on the flight over, and your delivery is less than perfect, the fact that you’re trying will win points. Salespeople in smaller boutiques greet customers and expect to be greeted in return: A simple “Bonjour, Madame” upon entering a shop will do wonders for your status there. And note that French people tend to talk softly—their voices never carry in the streets, on the Métro, or even when they’re sitting at the next table. Keep your voice low, too, and some of your neighbours might even venture a smile.
Today have been a day were I haven’t accomplished too much, but I have tried to continue my project. I have actually written a postcard for my niece and her husband, I have to admit, I don’t write too many postcards these days.. So that was my first act of kindness today. And I did call my Dad, volunteering to make dinner Sunday, when he has invited my brothers and their families for dinner. But I don’t think that counts for an act of kindness for today, I’ll use it for Sunday 🙂
So; my second random act of kindness was to make a call to a friend, who really should have been the one to call… But who’s counting! I did it, and we had a nice chat, and will probably meet up next week.
My last random act of kindness was to a complete stranger. A woman asked me for money to buy coffee when I past her. Both she and I knew that she didn’t intend to buy coffee, and I find it hard to give money to help someone maintain a drug addiction. On the other side, this is a delicate problem, where there are no easy solutions. So I asked if she was hungry. She nodded, and I asked her to come with me to buy some lunch. She didn’t want to leave her spot, and declined. It took a bit of courage from me to go back to her, with two sandwiches and two sodas. But I did, and she accepted. We had lunch together, sitting on a bench, talking. She only stayed for ten – fifteen minutes, but she was grateful in her own way. Seeing her and talking to her, left me more humble and grateful for my own life. And I almost didn’t write about her in this post, since telling about her almost feels like invading her privacy. What started out as a random act of kindness became something else…
After reading the blogpost “How to make a Watermelon Serving Bowl“ from Strawberry Pepper I got the courage to try it out myself. Celebrating my birthday today, I amazed my guests by this fun and creative way of presenting the fruit on the table.
THE SCARY PART:
THE FUN PART:
THE NOT SO FUN PART:
THE ADDING CUTENESS PART:
THE EASY PART:
THE BEFORE ADDING FRUIT AND BERRYS PART:
THE AMAZING RESULT:
I agree with Strawberry Pepper : It’s extremely easy to make a watermelon bowl and sure does a lot to make fruit salad more exciting. And together with my raspberry cupcakes and my first selfmade Orio cake my menu was a success. Why I can proclaim that? No left- overs!
I spent an afternoon at the park with my nephews’ a couple of days ago. The oldest had some homework for school, and in the meantime the youngest and I played with some biscuits I had brought. Yes, played, because the biscuits were in form of letters.
P. has just learned how to read and write, and he likes the short words best, he told me. And he was so proud of his little sentence in English that I would never had stolen his joy by telling him he had pulled out a G instead of a C. I searched for a C, but we must have eaten all of them, so the message became as the picture tells.