Category Archives: Travel

Thank you, Pristina

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I am often asked about the country I am back from. As the saying goes, I do not judge a country by the airport, hotel and the meeting rooms. This is oftentimes my regular itinerary. Goodbye, perception of excitement surrounding people who go on missions!

When, in my last trip to Pristina, which was also a first for me, the usual question “How do you like it here?” popped-up, I realised that I sense a country by two things: people and bread.

I do get to interact with quite a number of fellow humans, including the border policeman/woman, taxi drivers, hotel receptionists, bartenders and waiters, as well as the projects’ teams and partners I meet. And this is how I get to know something about the country. Walls and roofs, roads and pavements are dissipated in my memory by the human interaction.

Back to my last trip.

I thank Pristina for the blue eyed bartender who made my espresso exactly as I like it and served it with a mood boosting “Enjoy!”. I thank Pristina for the hotel receptionist who fixed my naughty room door with a magic touch. I am grateful to all project partners for their enormous dedication and contagious enthusiasm for what they do. I am deeply respectful for how far they came from their initial point and in such a short period of time (by history’s measure). There is also so much more they aspire to do. This is what I told to the curious border guard with a warm smile, when he asked me “Do you think we will be alright?” “I trust you will!” He happily stamped my passport and waved goodbuy with “Please come again!”

In addition to human interaction, I internalize bread in every new place I get to walk on. The daily bread. The flavour and texture of bread just out of the oven. The bread that knows the hands, which worked its dough. The bread which knew fire and was not consumed by it. The bread that welcomes guests and feeds the family, regardless of the language it speaks and the religion it practices.

Traditional flat bread, as served at Pishat restaurant in Pristina, November 2019.

Thank you Chisinau

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Thank you Chisinau

for my dearest people who make me feel at home, regardless of the time which passed since our last encounter. You know who you are.

for my first eight-pairs-of-hands-baking experience with orphan girls in the care of Diaconia and a chance to share with them a baking atmosphere I had with my grandmother.

for my daughter’s enthusiasm and support: “Mom, you were such a pro, juggling the parallel teams at baking!”.

for Diaconia’s wonderful team of people whose dedication I admire from the bottom of my heart. Check them out at http://www.diaconia.md.

for allowing young musicians to express themselves under the street lights in Stefan cel Mare park:

for the betterment if your zoo. We can be critical of many things we saw there, yet we choose to appreciate how much it evolved since its establishment 40 years ago

for my school, which celebrated 50 year recently. It was a moment of joy to retrace my steps to and from the school, with my daughter this time around.

for a great number of professionals I met and who do the best they can and aspire to do better, regardless of the circumstances. You know who you are.

and, last but not least, for your splendid autumn colours which stand to remind us of the unique beauty of nature this time of the year.

Thank you Brussels

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I was on a 4 hour train ride.

– How are you, Madam? It’s ok, not too long?, asked the conductor, as we approached our destination.

– Thank you, it is just right. And how are you? You are the one working all these hours. I am only giving a massage to the seat 🙂

– Oh, thank you very much for asking, a big smile lighting up his face. I adore it. It’s the best job in the world! When all goes well.

– I wish you that it continues to stay well, in all its ways.

– Thank you very much, Madam. A pleasure to see you again on our trains.

A one minute dialogue with a thousand riches in it. People find meaning in serving others. People are opening up when asked with autheticity how was their day/duty trip/behind-the-cashier day. A grateful customer can give meaning to someone’s work. Be kind.

Coffee mug courtesy of Courtyard by Marriott – my kind of coffee fortune telling.

Merci Monaco

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for such a wonderful immersion into Dali’s artistic journey at Grimaldi Forum

for the wonders of jewelry making by Chaumet

for the new turtles nursery for Samy and Avril at the Oceanographic Museum, which we always enjoy visiting

for our first visit to the zoo, which only got 3/10 from my kid, who knows everything about how enclosures should look like and she is serious about it. Some enclosures are beautiful nonetheless. The zoo is home to 250 animals and all of them were donated, which makes it unique

for the return of the unhindered view on the Casino in all its green splendor

for the best tarte au chocolat at Costa. The lady there also vows to the excellency of chocolate éclaire. Something to try next time 🙂

for an excuisite chocolate ice cream by Marcolini, enjoyed in a true schoolgirl spirit on the stairs of the Opera. It brought back a dear childhood rebelion memory: to eat ice cream in the middle of winter and on the stairs of the bus station

for the discovery of Gaia, an ode to Greek cuisine in the heart of Monaco. I loved the food’s magic power to take you to the Hellen land and then bring you back to Cote d’Azur. We enjoyed the watermelon and feta salad, the cheese pie with truffles and the fish in salt crust. Wine lovers will find there a fine selection of Greek and French wines (to the extent I can judge). Service is personalised and well syncronised on a very busy night

for an amazing view from Le Meridien, which was very generous with us and exceeded our expectations

for the mind-blowing taste of Munegu – a cake born from a blend of panettone and fougasse – from Mada One by Marcel Ravin, to share and enjoy with the loved ones upon return

Tips for city-breaks with kids

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The last city break we took inspired me to put together some tips for trips with kids. These might be valid sometimes for the “big babies” of the family (we all know who they are 🙂 ).

So, here are my tips:

– limit the number of visits per day and plan breaks every 2-3 hours, depending on the age of the child;

– look for sensorial-friendly activities. Luckily, museums these days integrate in their displays lots of interactive features for a more fulfilling experience.

– alternate landmarks with visits to zoos, amusement parks or public parks, where local kids play.

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Paris, Trocadero Gardens

– with some commitment, you can find nature spots even in busiest of cities. Your urban kid and your urban self will be thankful for a day spent among trees and other creatures.

– let the kid sleep longer in the morning. They will be rested and eager to explore through the day. That’s also the perfect time to plan for the day.

– consider whether you need to book a hotel room with breakfast or rent an apartment with a kitchenette. Choose what serves better your own morning rhythm.

– book hotels with pools for a “chillaxing” (my kid’s favourite word from “chill” and “relax”) experience in the evening, after long walks. It will also serve you well in rainy weather.

– allow some TV time, if you have no TV at home (which is our case) or stick to your usual TV time-allowed at home.

– complete each day by asking the kid what she enjoyed most during the day. She is your most valuable customer, so – ask for feedback.

– enjoy every moment and look at places through your kid’s eyes. You might be surprised by what you experience even in familiar places.

Seen in Paris

Merci Paris for

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Merci Paris for

my kid’s first encounter with you and your generosity with architecture and entertainment for her age (and mine).

her amazement when the Eiffel Tower suddenly appeared in front of us at Trocadero (if you want such an effect on your kid, do not tell her/him what’s next 😉 )

the lovely Acquarium and for her first fish feeding&touching experience.

the Batobus and its unique hop-on hop-off feature, which takes you to 8 points of attractions.

the small zoo at the Jardin des Plantes of the Museum of Nature, which has quite a variety of animals, including the cuttest red panda, snow leopard cubs and baby orangutans.

the superbly done zoo in Vencenne forest, home to 2000 animals. It is our absolutly nr 1 and we have seen quite a few so far in Europe.

the Museum of the Humans – Musee de l’Homme – and its interactive displays to learn or revisit some of the stages of human development. Displays also raise awareness of the human impact on nature. It was fun to listen to different spoken languages and learn for example that Mand was spoken by 8 people (!) in 2015.

the magic of the four-hand baking for tea time with chef Antonio Cortez at the school of Alain Ducasse.

the best breakfasts at Carette and Stohrer, the 300 years old bakery in Paris.

and a silent promise to come back and explore more of you.