As I am sitting here on my sofa, in front of my Christmas tree, I am wrapping up a big, satisfying yet challenging year. Lots happened but not in the usual way.
My biggest life learning this year is that you need to be open and flexible to life changes, extremely brave to find what really makes you happy, and even braver to take actions in that direction. That’s the only way you can feel you are actually living the life you want and not just getting by. It’s scary, yes. It’s easy, no. I disagree with people who tell you that in order to be happy you need to lower your standards. I have been told that a few times this year. Wrong. In fact, the opposite is true, but they need to be your own high standards, not other people’s.
This applies to my life in general, and to my blog, of course. I am not a food or restaurant critic, and I prefer to leave the job of criticising and rating to the experts. I am simply a girl who travels a lot, for work and for pleasure. I also eat out a lot; partially because I am traveling and mostly because I enjoy it.
I do blog the meals I have enjoyed, I tend to avoid talking about bad experiences. I don’t have a blog because I am frustrated at work, and that’s the only way I can channel my creativity or ambition or because I want to change my career. I am not interested in writing a restaurant review to tick a box and get a badge on my blog, in fact, I am not interested in writing reviews in general. I am not a die-hard blogger wanting to make money out of my own digital space. I don’t, and quite frankly I don’t intend to. Thankfully I have a job I love that allows me to eat out if I want to, and I don’t need to be offered a freebie to go.
This is why I won’t bore you with a list of attention seeker Michelin is right or wrong, ups and downs, plus and minus, the list of places to be seen or anything like that. Here is a very simple overview of a few of my very personal top food and travel highlights in 2013.
Dinner at At.mosphere – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
At.mosphere is a spectacular place, located in the tallest building in the world (828m and 163 floors), with a breath-taking view, and this is why you should have dinner here. I am a sucker for anything that includes dining with a view, and I don’t think there is anything that beats this one, at least in terms of height (122nd floor). My choice was the 5 course tasting menu, Beef Tartare and Carpaccio (enoki salad, quail egg, truffle shavings, violet mustard); Atlantic Turbot (baby artichokes, taggiasca olives, smoked spelt); Suckling Lamb (lentils du puy, smoked tomato puree, cumin jus); Autumn Berries (pavlova, rubharb sorbet); The Cube (white chocolate parfait, textures of passion fruit). Food was extremely well executed, as you would expect, although not particularly inventive, but of course, I would love to come back here again, maybe on a date, for the view! (Dinner from £140 pp including drinks).
Dinner at The GreenT house – Beijing – China
Back in June I spent a few days in Beijing – China, and one of the many culinary highlight of my trip was an incredible yet surreal dinner at The Green T House, where a fellow foodie and colleague, had booked a table for my last night in the city. The restaurant itself is an actual exhibition gallery, with pieces by the owner and guest artists. The food is a fusion of contemporary Western (with a French influence) and Chinese Fusion. They offer a very extensive wine list, and of course an immense menu of special teas. You can read all about it here. (Dinner from £80 including drinks)
Browsing the Muttrah souq in Muscat – Oman
Last month I found myself booked on a very last second trip to Oman, from Dubai, where I was staying for a few days. One of the must see attractions in Muscat, the Omani capital, is Muttrah souq, where I headed after an amazing local dinner on the Corniche, browsing the overstocked shops selling frankincense, perfume oils, silver and spices. A unique experience, if you, like me love markets. You can read about it here.
Yoga retreat in Fuerteventura – Spain
I have never got around to blogging about my yoga retreat in Fuerteventura. Back in March, after a couple of very intense months I really needed some down time, read a very urgent beach holiday, and headed to Fuerteventura on my own, to join a yoga retreat for a long weekend. I booked my flight on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I was landing in Fuerteventura. Go if you need to de-stress. Don’t go if you expect crazy nights out. Best restaurants: Avenida, La Plaza and Rompeolas (downtown Corralejo).
Hiking in Bergen – Norway
My best friend accepted a job offer in Stockholm, Sweden last year. Bad news for me, as I miss her terribly. We do speak every day though, and we meet up very often too. This year we decided to make the most out of her Scandi exile, hopefully her last year, by spending a couple of weekends discovering the Nordics. Our first attempt was a pretty uneventful weekend in Copenhagen in July, not my favourite Scandinavian capital. We browsed the city under a torrential rain, but on the upside, we picked our two tattoo designs. Our second attempt, was a fantastic weekend In Bergen, Norway. Amazing. Firstly, landing in the fjords is a pretty spectacular experience, at least if you are blessed with nice weather. Secondly, the town, surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords, is a beautiful, charming place, perfect for an active weekend. Foodie highlights: local beer tasting at Naboen, lamb at Btyggeloftet and BryggeStuene, lunch at the Fish Market, by the port.
Dinner at Pierre Sang – Paris – France
In Paris for a couple of days, I dragged a very reluctant colleague to try Pierre Sang Boyer’s first restaurant, a Top Chef finalist who after a series of pop-ups, has opened in Oberkampf, in the 11th arrondissement, Paris’ Hackney (sorry Parisians). Pierre was adopted from South Korea at age 7 and raised by a food-obsessed French family in the Auvergne region. True to his roots, he likes to mix Asian ingredients and preparations with traditional French comfort food. Probably one of my best meals in 2013. You don’t know what you are going to eat, and your waiters like to quiz you to check you have spotted all the ingredients. Last but not least, service is incredibly friendly, quite refreshing considering it’s Paris. No need to say my colleague is now Pierre Sang’s #1 fan.