A little piece of heaven on earth

Portofino, Italy

In Europe we have St. Tropez, Marbella (Puerto Banus), Porto Cervo and Portofino. Four harbor villages, all having some sort of power of attraction for the rich and famous. Though, one of them really stands out. And that’s Portofino, a beautiful photogenic Italian village with a bunch of bright colored restaurants, houses and little shops crowded around the bay. The small harbor is filled with boats and outside the bay you find some of the bigger yachts. Although there are a Louis Vuitton, Pucci and Dior boutique, unlike the slight bragging sphere you have in villages like St. Tropez, Portofino has this totally different vibe. A great one.      
     There are two roads leading further into the village. One road shows you the big expensive villa’s in the mountains. On this side of the bay, you also find the amazing 5 star hotel called Splendido (part of the Orient Express group, check out their website and get crazy seeing all their magnificent hotels all over the world). We walked around Splendido a little bit, the last time we were in Portofino, only to find out that Madonna was there the next day to celebrate her birthday with all her famous friends. Damn! The other path, Molo Umberto I, brings you to a small yellow (and very romantic) church. Behind it, there’s this very special graveyard, and in the front you have a breathtaking view over the bay and the village.

            Stroll through Portofino, have a nice pasta in one of the restaurants around the harbor, enjoy a scoop of ice cream at gelateria Il Molo and walk up the hill for an even greater view. I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it, just like I did.

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Oh everytime I close my eyes

I know we all have a similar dream
Go in your pocket pull out your wallet

And put it in the air and sing...

Well, we all know the lyrics of Travie McCoy’s Billionaire, right? Unfortunately I’m not (yet!) a billionaire, but I do sometimes dream of 50 pairs of Louboutins, summer vacations to the Malediven and Seychelles, a couple of different colored Hèrmes Birkins matching with every outfit, a black Maserati GranTurismo S (oh and probably a Fiat 500 Abarth just for fun) and a platinum, diamond Chopard watch. (Sigh…)
            But, until that time arrives, designer outlets are the solution for all the girls (and boys) with small wallets and big dreams. Here are some of my favorite places to go outlet shopping, online and in real life.

Let start with my number one favorite, the Designer outlet at Roermond.
Okay, you do have to like this ‘we tried to make it cozy like a small village’-style, but for me it works. In Roermond you find some great brands, like Gucci, Prada, 7 For All Mankind, Calvin Klein underwear and Ralph Lauren. And not just the failures of the collection (something you see very often in these bad ‘designer’ outlets, like for instance the Rosada factory outlet in Roosendaal), but some real nice pieces. Take for instance the Gucci store. Next to the items of their regular collection (sold for a pretty good price), they also have a few items of the exclusive collection. Picture this: a small sea green bag made of snake and crocodile leather, combined with a bamboo top handle. (Too bad it still costs about 1500 Euros.. *cricket sound*).Their winter coat collection is awesome and they sell some pretty neat stuff for men as well. There’s also a great Le Creuset shop (you know, the expensive cookwear) and even though it’s not really a luxurious shop, I also enjoy their Body Shop outlet a lot.

Next on my list is the website
Well, that name leaves little to the imagination, doesn’t it? At Designer Vintage you can buy vintage designer shoes, bags, accessories and clothing. Okay most of stuff sold there is still a bit pricy (a lambskin leather flap bag from Chanel: 1350 Euros, a Hermès Birkin: 7500 Euros), but you can be lucky and find some very special items for an amazing price. Plus, they have this rigid zero-tolerance counterfeit policy, so you can be sure that all the stuff you buy is absolutely authentic (they even work with Louis Vuitton, Mulberry, Gucci etc., who provide DV with specific counterfeit information and help them judge the items that are being sold online).

And there’s another vintage webshop (a combination of real, ‘grandma’ vintage and designer stuff), I also check almost every day, called Their offer isn’t always that great, but (with capital B) over the past couple of months I’ve seen some really nice items passing by (for instance this creamy white leather Gucci bag for only 60 Euros! And I was too late, aaargh!). Though, different than at Designer Vintage, you really have to search for the pretty stuff, but that’s a nice thing to do right?

Back to real shopping again? Well, visit Maasmechelen Village at Maastricht.  They’re a member of the Chich Outlet Shopping, which is a collection of nine luxury outlet shopping villages around Europe (Londen, Madrid, Paris etc.). The last time I was there, I needed a dress for my high school prom. You’ll probably understand my excitement trying on all these fabulous (though sometimes a bit trashy) dresses at Escade, Versace and Ralph Lauren Purple Label. Sadly enough there wasn’t a dress that met my needs and the only one that did (a beautiful long black dress with a deep back at RL) was way above my budget.  Though Maasmechelen is also a really cozy place to go shopping, for clothing (Liu Jo, Essentiel, Karen Millen and bags and accessories (Furla, The Society Shop)!

All photos from Tumblr

Last one on my list is another webshop called The Outnet. Other than Hippas and Designer Vintage, the items being sold here aren’t vintage. They’re just design, but with a big discount. They sell amazing brands like Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Givenchy, Hervé Léger, Miu Miu and Valentino. You can easily search through their collection by picking your size or a brand or a color. They also have this funny ‘Dress me’-button where you can choose for which occasion you need some new clothes (tea at the Ritz, black tie or the great outdoors for instance), and you get a whole list of potential clothing. And there are also these flash sales (“don't blink, don't move and definitely don't hesitate as the clock is ticking”) where you can get fabulous items for fabulous prices. And there’s more! They also always have a giveaway you can enter freely (their Marni bag giveaway closes in about a few hours, still some time left for you to join!) where they give away brand new items.

Got a little bit greedy after checking out these sites? I understand! But you know what, I’m sitting in my comfy warm house, drinking chocolate and listening to a beautiful classical piano piece. And I’m happy. I could even call this state of mine serene. And I think:  I’m perfectly fine with all the stuff I already own right now. I don’t need all those designer bags, bracelets and shoes.

(Well, at least not for today ha-ha)

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Excuse me?

Bar Newton, Charlottenstraße 57, Berlin

Photo: Lonely Planet

I’m a big cocktail fan, so whenever I’m vitisting a new city I always try to find a nice cocktailbar. It Berlin for instance, I found bar Newton. Don't let the prices on the menu scare you off and don't take offense at some of the obscene cocktail names (triple orgasm, blowjob or sexmachine), but allow yourself to be seduced by the trendy interior and the lounge seating outside. The enormous black and white photo of the naked Walking Women, made by the Berlin photographer Helmut Newton, is a great eye catcher. And yes, the bar is named after him.   
    The prices might be a little high, but in Berlin quality doesn’t come cheap. Though, when you order a Mai Tai, it
s not only a feast for the eyes (they do make a good show behind the bar), but also for your mouth. Several different kinds of alcohol (all of their cocktails are really strong) are mixed together to create a wonderful, explosion of flavors. See the benefit? You 
only have to buy one drink to have fun all night!

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Seriously good sandwiches

 B&B Catering Service, Rokin 100, Amsterdam

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised by a new lunchroom. I usually avoid eating in the area around my university because of  the high priced/low quality "touristfood". So my expectations weren’t that high already, but entering the place (and noticing their ugly interior) I literally had to tell myself that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. At this point you must be wondering why I even bothered eating there... Well, their muffins and other cakes in their window looked absolutely delicious (even though I still don’t understand why they put plants in between them).
            But, more important than the plants between their sweets or their ugly furniture, are the delicious sandwiches they serve. There is a lot of choice and a fine collection of different kinds of bread and sandwich fillings. We ordered two sandwiches to share. One "Italian sandwich" with roast beef, parmesan, sundried tomatoes, pesto and rockets which was truly delicious. The other one with goat cheese, roasted almonds, figs and rockets, was just an experiment of a girl that works there, but it was so good! The two of them make a healthy, tasteful lunch for about 5 Euros per person.
            The next day I stopped by to try one of their muffins, which they call "the best in and around Amsterdam". Normally I would definitely pick one that has some form of chocolate in or on it.  However this time I couldn't resist my curiosity and had to try the Peach & Raspberry variation. I must admit, I think it was the best muffin I've ever ate in Amsterdam! They have 2 other establishments in the city center, one in the Leidsestraat and on the Max Euweplein (facing the Hard Rock café). So, just ignore the appearance of the place and order yourself a delicious sandwich, or two..

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Oh Romeo

Casa di Giulietta, Via Cappello 23, Verona

I love Verona, it’s such a pretty city. In the middle of the Piazza Bra (a beautiful big square in the town center) you can find the old Roman amphitheatre, where gladiators used to fight, but where you can visit the operas now. After the show, the whole piazza gets filled with people having late night dinners, listening to some of the artists who come out of the Arena to sing some more for them. And there’s the Ponte Scaligero, an impressive bridge with a stunning view over the city. You can keep walking around in the city trough narrow alleys, which lead you to more beautiful churches, buildings and small hidden restaurants. There’s the amazing Piazza delle Erbe, another square with nice restaurants, shops and a market. Look at all the beautyfull houses surrounding the piazza! Oops, I got carried away by talking about one of my favorites places in Europe, while I actually wanted to tell you about one specific place in Verona.                       
        Who doesn’t know the famous love story of Romeo and Juliet? About their impossible feelings for each other and it’s tragic ending. Even though there are people claiming Romeo and Juliet didn’t really exist (I’m surely not one of them), still one of the main tourist attractions in Verona is Juliet’s house (Casa di Giulietta). You can stand on her balcony, imagine Romeo singing his love serenade for her, and take a look in the house where a small museum is located. But, that’s not really what I like about this place. It’s the entrance hall of the courtyard with a big wall (know as Juliet’s wall) filled with loves messages from people all over the world. It’s said that writing your name on this wall, will make your love everlasting. (Hm, that might be a little bit undue, but I like the thought of it). It’s funny to see how people actually used about anything to write their love letters on. When they didn’t bring a piece of paper with them, they used sanitary towels, napkins, plasters or candy wrappers instead. Glued with chewinggum or even spittle, their messages spread the love for about another day, until the wall is full again and the cleaners come to take them all down again. I know that might be a little bid a sad thought, but hey, it gives you a good reason to visit Verona every once in a while!

No wonder why the city center of Verona is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, right? 

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Stamp it

‘I like’. These words always remind me of the hilarious character Borat (by Sacha Baron Cohen) in the similar titled movie, who howls out “Ai Laik” every time he gets the change. More commonly known and used, is the ‘Like’-button on Facebook, which most of us use about a few times each day. With Facebook still growing bigger and bigger every day, the terms used on this social media site are slowly finding their way into the physical world. And now it’s getting even easier to express yourself in a Facebook-way with these hilarious (and also kinda absurd) stamps from Kanubi. Did you try a new recipe you loved or plan a fun night out in your agenda? Grab your “Like”-stamp! Received a high cell phone bill or a bad grade on your paper? Definitely worth a “Dislike!”-stamp!. You can buy them at for about 15 Euros. And once you’re there, check out their other fun stuff as well. I really like their cute mirror stickers, handy pink ladies toolbox, choculator and sweet handwarmers.

Ps. Have you ever changed your Facebook language? It’s very entertaining! If you choose Pirate English ‘Like’ becomes ‘Arr!’ and ‘My friends’ are ‘Me hearties’! Oh and watch what happens when you switch from Dutch to Afrikaans: 'voeg de talen toe die jij spreekt' changes in 'voeg tale by wat jy kan praat' and 'mensen die jij misschien kent' becomes 'ken jy hulle?'. Don’t forget to remember with which tab you changed your language, because ‘account settings’ 
doesn’t really sounds a lot like ‘Ye Ship’s Rigging’!

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Sushi unlimited

Shabu Shabu, Ferdinand Bolstraat 18, Amsterdam

I love sushi, especially when the quality is high and the price is low. Unfortunately most of the time cheap sushi is not that great and you still end up paying about four of five Euros for just a couple of maki’s. Luckily the unlimited sushi formula has come to Holland from overseas and the quality for an all-you-can-eat-sushi-dinner is pretty good! Recently Shabu Shabu opened their first restaurant in Amsterdam. It’s a big place but I really liked the interior and it still feels cozy. For about 23 Euros you can order unlimited sushi for two and a half hours. Though, make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach, because they charge extra for each piece you order but don’t eat. Shabu Shabu serves Delicious maki, sake and tamago but be sure to try the warm dishes such as springrolls, yaki tori, ebi tempura (fried prawns) and edamama (salted soya beans) too! And don’t forget to order yourself a cold dry Asahi beer, because it will make your dinner taste even better. Itadakimasu! (bon appetit)
Shabu Shabu has restaurants in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Denhaag, Leiden and Zoetermeer.
           By the way, some other great unlimited sushi places are Sushi Qube and Zumo in Rotterdam, Hasekura in Utrecht and Ask de Chef in Arnhem.

Ps. If you feel like making sushi at home, maybe you can try this ;) It’s just a crazy toy, but I think it's very funny. 


How to ...

Videojug, I’m a big fan. I think this website (and Iphone app) with its huge database of ‘how to…’ movies is awesome. I’ve already watched so many of them. Like for instance how to win any argument, how to do the world’s best banana trick, how to insert contact lenses and how to stop laughing at inappropriate times. Needless to say, I learned a lot watching these movies. There are all these channels with different subcategories. Some people make a video just for one time, but there are also these experts at work who upload new how to’s on a very regular basis.
            There’s for instance Chef Jessica, who has all these great Asian recipes and gets filmed while preparing them. Wanted to try her sweet and sour pork ever since I saw her making it. The Fashion Police, with their Beauty 911, told me how to wear my leggings in a flattering way.
And there’s the Making Millions channel, which gives you all sorts of great advice like ‘How To Think Like A Millionaire’, and ‘How To Prioritize Your Goals When Visualizing Wealth.’ That might come in handy one day! Oh and I absolutely like the Clothing Stains channel. Did you know that you need dishwashing liquid , ammonia, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and hot boiling water to remove chocolate stains from your clothes? Too bad I do. If I can’t reach my grandmother for advice,I check the Clothing Stains channel when I spilled a glass of red wine over my carpet. Oh don’t forget Jacqueline Hanson from Amy Cleaners, she always knows how to make your grouting look as good as new (ha-ha!). And do you have some time left for a little exercise? Why don’t go for the ‘How to belly dance?’ It looks pretty easy on the video I must say. 
            No kidding,
I think it's great how there's this collective intelligence at work. Yes, you may laugh at me for using that word, talking about people with their home made videos. But I think collective intelligence isn't all about using shared intelligence in business and computer science and stuff, but also in situations on a more regular basis. It’s so good that people who actually know a lot about something (first impressions, phone batteries, giving birth, caring for goats, photographing a nude man etcetera) share their knowledge on a voluntary basis. Hmm, since I use their videos so much, perhaps I should start my own channel in return. Any ‘how to’-suggestions?

Ps. For all the love birds out there, what about this How to say in it Chinese!
Phonetically ‘I love You’ sounds a bit like “Whoah Y Nieh” and ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ like “Chieng Yen Djeh Quwhy Luh”. Always good to know, right?


Go crazy

Bagaholic, Makati Avenue, Manila

When I saw this store, I sort of reacted like one of those girls on MTV’s Sweet Sixteen who just got her first convertible BMW. Like a maniak! 
I really love bags. Sorry that is an understatement, I absolutely adore designer handbags. It is my number one favorite material possession! You know what, I would actually call myself a ‘bagaholic’ ;)
            When I entered the store, I almost got giddy with all the beauty surrounding me. All those fabulous bags, with almost 50% off! And let me remind you, in the Philippines you can always, anywhere, bargain, even if the price is already extremely low. The bags at Bagaholic are pre-owned, that’s why you get such discount. But why bother, since they all look brand new and leather actually looks even better when it’s been used for a while.
            Even though I enjoyed spending time in the shop, trying all the bags, I didn’t buy any of them, since we had a whole vacation ahead of us and it would be really dumb to spent all our money on one bag. Right?
             To bad they don't have a webshop, so if you do happen to visit Manila sometime, look for Bagaholic! It’s located in Makati, the business of area of the city, inside the Streetside Renaissance Hotel.


Love on a stick

Chocolate Company, Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 2, Maastricht

Jup, that's what it is, love on a stick. When you order a hot chocolate at the Chocolate Company, you get a cup of warm milk and a chocolate spoon (a wooden stick with a big piece of chocolate on it. They have more flavors than you can count, but some of them are praline, very dark chocolate, white chocolate, caramel, hazelnut and even hot pepper (that one tasted surprisingly good!). I loved their Brownie Walnut Bourbon Vanilla variation so much, I accidentally ate the most of it before putting in into my hot milk. Oh and I should not forget to mention all of the jummy pastries they sell in their store.

            Since they only have 3 stores in The Netherlands (and the other one in Belgium and Germany), there's some great news for you and me. Their web shop is opening soon! So we'll be able to make their delicious hot chocolate at home. I hope they'll be selling their mouthwatering chocolate bars as well..

       But for now, visit their cozy boutique in Maastricht (or Den bosch or Kerkrade). I bet just walking past the shop will lead you automatically inside, 'cause the smell of all those chocolate treats is too good to resist..    

Ps. Talking about Maastricht, there are a few other places I want to recommend you:

Kiki Niesten and Stylesuite, in the Stokstraat. Here they sell all these fabulous designers shoes, clothes and bags. Well, actually the whole street is definitely worth a visit, since you can find a lot of amazing shops over there. Must say, they’re all pretty expensive, so it’s also the perfect street to go window-shopping. 
Il Giardino (della Mama), Onze Lieve Vrouweplein 15. In for some real Italian food? Then you should go to this restaurant. It’s noisy and small, with waiters yelling at each other like you’re really in Italy, but they serve excellent authentic food and the ambiance is great. A bit pricy, but serious good quality! 


Easy does it

Spaghetti Aglio e olio

If you like pasta, there are 3 things you should always have in your kitchen. Spaghetti, a good olive oil and some garlic. Why? Because whenever you don't really feel like cooking but still want to make a tasty and easy meal, these are the only ingredients you”ll need for spaghetti aglio e olio. I do have to say, since this is such an easy recipe with only a few ingredients, make sure you use good quality products. 

            I first ate this pasta dish at an Italian restaurant (with this really ugly interior, given that it's located inside a former Chinese restaurant) close to where my parents live. Since that night, it’s one of my favorite ‘I’m lazy and I don’t feel like cooking (or doing the dishes) but I’d love to eat something nice that doesn’t come in a plastic box or a paper box’-meals.
            Just slowly heat a thin layer of olive oil in a frying pan (the proportion is about 16 spoons to 4 garlic gloves) and in another pan bring water to the boil. Don’t forget to add some salt to it (make sure it’s as salt as the water of the Mediterranean sea). In the meantime, you have to prepare the garlic. According to the Italians, you’re not allowed to slice the garlic or use a garlic press, since it will (badly) change the taste of it. You have to crush the cloves with a fork instead. I must admit, I usually use a garlic press with a few of the cloves and I also slice a few of them. Ai ai ai.

            Add the garlic and let it stew for a couple of minutes. It’s important that they don’t get burned, because that will seriously make them taste bad. Then add four spoons of boiling water from your pasta to it and keep on stirring. Add some salt and pepper and, like I said, if you want it a little bit more spicy just add some hot pepper (oil). Your spaghetti should be ready right now (I prefer it al dente), so put it in together with the garlic oil inside your frying pan and stir it ‘till it’s mixed up nicely. If you like, straw a bit of parmigiano on top of it. Buon appetito!
      (Funny how this post turned out to be a long one after all, since this recipe only takes a few lines.)


Masterly burgers

Burgermeerster, Elandsgracht 130/ Albert Cuypstraat 48/ Plantage Kerklaan, Amsterdam

I have a thing for burgers. Good burgers. So picture this: a finely grilled burger, made off high quality meat. Fresh lettuce, tomato and pickles on it, a slice of melted cheddar cheese. A big splash of ketchup and of course fine, not too hard not too soft, bun.
            Well, that’s exactly the burger you get when ordering the biefburger at Burgermeester.  The place looks a bit like an American diner (sadly they don’t do free refill), with few big red benches which you have to share with whoever is sitting next to you. (Come to think of it, for single ladies and guys it’s actually a pretty good place to meet people. Though.. too bad there isn’t a sexy or charming way to eat a burger, is there?)
            You can add a lot of different toppings to your burger and they serve some fine side dishes to. On each table you can find some cards asking you as a customer to invent a ‘burger of the month’. When they pick your idea, you get a honorable place on the website and inside the restaurant.  It’s actually pretty funny sitting in a restaurant, hearing people around you making suggestions for new burgers. “What about turkey with egg plant and honey-mustard sauce?”
             Burgermeester is a fine place for you to go if you want a tasty filling meal for a pretty low price. Oh and definitely keep a little bit of space for dessert, ‘cause their brownie is to die for!
(In the most positive way possible)


Spicy Crabs at the night market

210 Temple St, Jordan, Hong Kong

This place brings back the best memories. It was my first time in Hong Kong (to be exactly, my first hour in Asia) and I totally got overwhelmed by everything. The heat, the smell, the people, the streets, the neonlights.. 
            Before doing anything else, we went straight from the airport to the Night Market on Temple Street. 
(If you want the cabdriver to bring you there, just say: tempestreethnighmaaketttt and hell know). It was very late and we were hungry after our flight. We just sat down at a little table (in the middle of the street) and ordered two bowls of plain rice, two beer and two dishes we couldnt even pronounce. One of them turned out to be sweet and sour pork. De-li-ci-ous sweet and sour pork. A bit sweet, a bit sour, crispy pieces of meat and fresh (well, kinda) pineapple and peppers. And while eating all this great food we just kept smiling at each other and in de mean time we looked at all these new impressions around us. (You know about the table manners of Chinese people right? Well, there actually was one guy who took off his shirt,  dried off his soaked armpits and face with it, sneezed in it, and putted in back on. Nice!)
         Since this place is so special for me, I really needed to share this one with you. I had to do some research since I couldnt fully remember the name of this place, but by using Google Maps, Flickr and the photos I made that night, I discovered the name of the restaurant: Spicy Crabs.

I understand Hong Kong might be a little bit out of reach right now for some, so if you want to try some sweet and sour pork that comes close to the one I had at Spicy Crabs, go to Nam Kee (a very famous Chinese restaurant at the Zeedijk 111 in Amsterdam. 

Bring your money to the bank

Banker’s Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40, Barcelona


Inside this fabulous hotel at the Passeig de Gràcia you can find a bar, the Banker’s Bar, where the original security boxes from and old bank hang upon the ceiling and against the walls. They seem to serve great cocktails since their bartender received the title of the Spain Best Bartender 2010. 

            But that's not what this post is about, since I didn't have any when I was there. What I did eat was this absolutely delicious crema catalane (crème brulée). Probably the best I’ve ever had, come to think of it. The perfectly soft cream had this subtle flavor of cinnamon and orange and is topped with a perfectly crispy thin layer of sugar. 
           So if you happen to walk by, please get inside and order this mind-blowing dessert!

The taste of Italy just around the corner

De Pizzabakkers, Haarlemmerdijk 128, Amsterdam

Now this is want I call seriously good pizza. A thin crispy crust, authentic tomato sauce, tasty mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. At the Pizzabakkers they got this funny trademark ‘enjoy a glass of prosecco while waiting ‘til your pizza is ready’, which makes waiting of course no problem at all. You can take your pizza out, but also eat inside the small bakery. Upstairs they have this cozy room, where you probably will have to share a table with people you don’t even know, since it’s so tiny up in there. Each month they try out a new pizza and they also serve lunch, but only on Saturdays. So, looking for great pizza (for only about 9 Euros each) and a nice atmosphere to wine and dine? Haarlemmerdijk 128 it is..
By the way, their Foccacia Romana as antipasti is delicious!