travel

This Is My Station

Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, ‘I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.’ (Lisa St. Aubin de Teran)

The last of my Belgium photographs…
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One of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen ever. This is Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium.
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Originally used for flour, Laura says.
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What a coincidence!
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The original Godiva store!
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Jet lagged.image-156
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Haagen-Dazs ice-cream was everywhere in Japan! I bet my Japanese friends and students would love this cafe.

An Inside Look At A Belgian Supermarket

Guys, we have a winner! This Belgian supermarket is unreal. Mainly for two reasons. One, they have testers. But not just any old testers. Testers that are in every supermarket section, changed daily and refilled to keep full during all shopping hours. Yes, you read right. Amazing, isn’t it?! Second, and probably most important, they don’t use plastic bags. Instead, they have a unique trolley system to “bag” items at the cash register. You’ll see both as you scroll down under…
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I found the exterior of the shopping centre quite strange. There are no signs of this place being a supermarket. Nil. Zero. Laura says they save on advertising etc this way.
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Unlimited snickers! So dangerous!
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Raw cashews.. nomnomnom can have these instead.image-183
Cheese and olives! Oui!
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Call me Captain Obvious but mandarin…image-180
Grapes image-181
And cherry tomatoes in the fresh produce section.
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These are to do with Belgian culture. I’m sure you’ve heard of Belgian fries (NOT French, Laura says), well, these are some of their hundreds of sauces! Including bucket-fulls of mayo! Erghk!
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And here is Laura’s dad’s bottom kindly showing us the 0-plastic check-out system. So. The clerk takes the items from your trolley and puts them into another trolley. (I found this interesting as the clerk would be reaching and bending while customers just stood there -not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.) After that’s done, the customer pushes the other trolley out of the supermarket where they’re then free to unload their groceries straight into their car, bicycle or personal bag.

Vegetarian Food In Europe

Apparently California is the place for vegan and vegetarian food but compared to NZ and Japan, Europe is pretty good, too. Mostly Belgium and Switzerland though not so much Spain and France. Here’s a list:

Moon Food (Brussels, Belgium)
This place is completely vegan. There are two buffets, one cooked and one raw. You fill your plate then pay as according to weight. This is also the case for the next two places (Hiltl and Vert). Moon Food was probably my favourite restaurant. The interior is so pretty! Wooden and minimalistic. I wished so bad to be living and working in Brussels just so I could take my lunch breaks here. EVERYDAY. Laura also loved it and she’s not really into vegan.
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Raw pizza. image-164
Raw Lasagna
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Hummus (I can hear Oz singing the hummus song)
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Featuring zoodles (zucchini noodles), raw felafel, guacamole and slaw.
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Hiltl (Zurich, Switzerland)

According to “Guinness World Records” Hiltl is the first vegetarian restaurant in the world. The company was founded in 1898 by Ambrosius Hiltl and is now run by the fourth generation of the Hiltl family. It offers around 500 dishes and includes, in addition to the à la carte restaurant and Hiltl buffet, self-service and takeaway, a bar-lounge, a club, a cooking studio and a shop. The interior is really extravagant. White with hanging chandeliers. Definitely a place to take your mother. Some also do breakfast.
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Featuring edamame salad, dahl, lentil salad, mango and pineapple.

Vert Attitude (Geneva, Switzerland)

Probably the most expensive but rightly so. The food was of the highest quality and delicious. Only problem, the lighting isn’t good for an Instagram-worthy image (hehe)
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(Obvs not my photo – my plate, which is not pretty enough to post here contained broccoli salad, carrot salad, guacamole, lentil salad and dahl dal or dhal)

Greenway (Ghent, Belgium)
Both vegan and vegetarian options: wraps, burgers, salads etc. But it’s a chain so it’s not THAT great. But it’s good still. It has a Subway vibe like it’s cozy and colourful but it’s not a restaurant.
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imburage
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Maison Blunt (Zurich, Switzerland)
Just had a soy chai here but it was goooooood. Also the interior, very moroccan very cute. Free wifi (no password), comfy couches and many vegan and vegetarian options (some meat dishes too shhhh!).
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Others:
These I did not have the time, stomach-space or money to try out. But, they’re on my list. Maybe you’ll get to try them on my behalf:
Qibi (Geneva, Switzerland)
YOGIFOOD – The Power of Raw (Geneva, Switzerland)
Avalon (Ghent, Belgium)
Dolma (Brussels, Belgium)

As Ye Have Faith So Shall Your Powers And Blessings Be.

I was on the train from Zurich to Geneva when I had the epiphany. To pass time, I had decided to look at my phone’s pictures from end to beginning. A mere 10 images in and dun dun dun epiphany:

“As ye have faith so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance – this is the balance – this is the balance.” -ʿAbdul-Baha

Could the answer be any clearer for me? To find this balance I’d been wanting, I needed to have faith. For with faith in the game, I no longer need to know everything. And even if I thought I did (know everything), I probably wouldn’t really. For who am I kidding? No one actually knows exactly. So I will have faith. Faith in life unfolding just as it’s meant to be. Faith in the universe’s plans for me. And faith in my immense strength and ever-expansive abilities. And with that faith, I will have my balance.
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Spinning in A Whirlwind of Emotions

Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it. (Cesare Pavese)

The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries. (Rolf Potts)

We can’t jump off bridges anymore because our iPhones will get ruined. We can’t take skinny dips in the ocean because there’s no service on the beach and adventures aren’t real unless they’re on Instagram. Technology has doomed the spontaneity of adventure and we’re helping destroy it every time we Google, check-in, and hashtag. (Jeremy Glass)

It’s funny. When you leave your home and wander really far, you always think, ‘I want to go home.’ But then you come home, and of course it’s not the same. You can’t live with it, you can’t live away from it. And it seems like from then on there’s always this yearning for some place that doesn’t exist. I felt that. Still do. I’m never completely at home anywhere. (Danzy Senna)

For the past few days, I have been spinning in a whirlwind of emotions. I have felt flabbergasted by new experiences, homesick from doing it by myself, frustrated by the foreign and completely amazed at this wonderfully big little world we live in. At times, I have been able to capture some of it through a camera lens and at others, not at all, not even a little bit. I like the quotes above for they’ve made me think long and hard about my travels and my consequent thoughts and actions. I wish that I could tell you that my over-thinking has cultivated an epiphany or some profound wisdom but frankly it hasn’t. Not yet. Right now, I am more muddled than ever. This restlessness I pin down to excess information. I keep telling my parents, it’s not easy to live in this day and age either! Do I settle down or travel awhile longer? Continue participating in social media for self-promotion or stay quiet writing in private? And as I do either, do I work or study further? Again, I hear my ears ringing “first world problem.” Though I really think it is, a problem that is, of our generation. Information overload and unlimited choice can prove impossible to navigate.

So. For now, all I want is balance. Balance between travel and home, reality, and the internet, blogging and writing a bigger project and between career and education.

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Graffiti street in Ghent.
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Vegan burger from Greenway.
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The most amazing vegan lunch at Moon Food in Brussels.
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The Brussels Waffle

I’ve eaten a lot of things this Europe trip. Like, a lot. My jeans can attest to that. But even with the tighter jeans, I am glad and grateful to have been able to consume so much deliciousness. Especially when there are literally billions going without food every day.

I ate in Spain, France, Switzerland, and Belgium (Italy and Greece will have to wait for me and my future husband).

Food is just incredible in this continent. This is because, the majority of our favorites derived here: fries, waffles, pizza, crepes, etc.

Though I can write pages upon pages listing the delicacies I gobbled up here, only three of these have actually blown me away. As in, whoosh and into dreamland where my only wish of my sparkling fairy godmother was that my real mother could also taste this or that.

1. Ham, cheese, and lettuce French baguette.

2. Brussels waffle topped with strawberry and Nutella.

3. Handmade pistachio macaroon from a local market.

Forget Spanish churros, Belgian fries or Swiss chocolate. Forget cheese, olives, paella. Godiva? Lindt? Who needs them! My three, those are the ones I vouch to never forget. If I could marry one, well, let’s just say I’d have to first change gender, second religion and third, get used to pampering three women.

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Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonalds? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once. (Anthony Bourdain)

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Belgium Equals Bricks

Really, I have never seen so many bricks! And not your regular bricks but these tiny tiny teeny ones. So far, I have visited Brugge and Ghent. Today, we will sight-see Brussels and tomorrow, I will fly back to Switzerland.

Laura and her family have been so sweet to me. Speaking of sweet, my very first Belgian experience after arriving was being driven to one of the world’s largest chocolate factories. It was 9 or 10pm and all we did was park outside and sniff. I kid you not, that’s all that was required. We didn’t have to taste any. We didn’t have to go in. For I have never ever smelt anything so sweet and delicious. If only you were there. #chocolateminusthecalories

Last night, I found myself feeling homesick again. I messaged my mom and called my special friend and then I felt better. Though I couldn’t quite articulate my homesickness. I don’t know, something to do with continously being on the move. Though these days, every day is literally an exciting adventure, I still find myself longing for familiarity and routine. You know when you go on a holiday and nearing the end of it, you kinda can’t wait to go home and get back into the everyday? Well, it’s kinda sorta exactly like that except I’ve been travelling for 2 years (hehe). Yeah yeah I know, first world problems.

This morning, I came across a Simon de Beauvoir quote which perfectly describes it, this feeling of contradiction: “I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger”

Behold, the bricks:
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A Day In Geneva

Thank you Laura for letting me use your computer!

I’m so mad at myself for not having come to Geneva earlier. It is only 40 minutes from my auntie’s place and so so spectacular! Wow. You should have seen me. For the entire day I looked like a smiling idiot. Which is why I’ve decided that I’m definitely a city girl. And you know what, I’ve also decided that there’s nothing wrong with that. So, I can appreciate nature. I DO appreciate nature. I love a little peace and quiet. Fresh air. But, I also LOVE culture. Art galleries, boutique stores, cafes, bakeries, flower-shops, book-shops, parks, park benches, park pigeons, I’m lovin’ it. All of it. When I walk through a city like Geneva, I hear poetry in my ears.

I had an entire day in Geneva before my flight to Belgium so here’s what I did:
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A look at Jet d’Eau (water jet), one of Geneva’s biggest landmarks.
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City strolls.
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BEEP BEEP then went off my foodie sensor! I still don’t know exactly what it was but I can definitely say there was meringue, mousse and chocolate. Bye bye diet.
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For lunch, I had a soy latte (cos I’m hipster like that) and a vegetarian “Paradiso” salad which I’d seen posted several times on Instagram from Paradiso cafe. And though it was yum, I wished I’d gotten their famous avocado toast instead. First world problems. Wish there were money (and calorie) refunds for bad food decisions.
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For dinner, I went to Golestan. A legit Persian restaurant in Geneva’s red light district! I had a Persian favorite: Ghormesabzi with mint and cucumber yoghurt. It was so good, it made me miss my mother. I wish my stomach was larger because I wanted to eat kebab as well. Then, before you think I’m even more of a glutton than I actually am, I walked for 1 hour and 45 minutes to the airport to catch my flight to BELGIUM!
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Such a cool exhibition showing beautiful faces alongside the equally beautiful lake.image-6
Maybe Japanese?
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Lifa, that you?image-2
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United Nations.
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Dessert. Shoosh. I earned it/I’m on holiday… (always).

Lakeside Strolls and Gothic Grandeur

How great is Europe? How cool is this? To travel from one country to another in less than an hour, from France to Switzerland, Lausanne desu. PS “desu” is a Japanese word often used at the end of factual sentences and for me, the most memberable part of the public transport announcements. Osaka desu. Tokyo desu. Lausanne desu.
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As for Switzerland, it is clean, luxurious and crazy expensive.
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First on our Lonely Planet list was to visit the Olympic Mueseum. Unfortunately, the entry fee turned out to be a lottle expensive. 18 Swiss Franc, that’s about 25 New Zealand dollars for only three floors – and I’m not even interested in Olympics! So, I took a few pics of the building itself but because the sun had not come out yet, I don’t think they’re that great.Sorry. Next up, the local Wednesday (and Saturday) market:
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Teeny tiny little widdle pumpkins. image-126image-130
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My best street photography picture ever.
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Both Sonia and I agreed these were THE best vegetarian burgers we have ever had ever. From Holy Cow
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Ferry back to France. 50 mere minutes on beautiful Lake Geneva.
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Back in France, cherry sorbet.image-114
For my Bahai followers (and those interested). This is the hotel (now residential apartment) Abdu’l-Bahá stayed at during his travels of Switzerland and the very port her travelled from.
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