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Chocolatier Tour in Brussels

23 May

We recently did a little weekend trip through Belgium and Holland and whilst I would normally cram our weekend itinerary in one post, I thought I would split it in two. Part one will focus entirely on the first half day of our four day weekend during which we ran frantically in and out of Chocolatier’s in Brussels, sampling and purchasing a lot of chocolatey goodness.

I always thought that Belgian chocolates were Swiss chocolates rivals but it wasn’t until we visited these Chocolatiers that I realised there’s no competition. Belgian chocolate = pralines. Swiss chocolate = block chocolate. Therefore they both win in their respective categories and I don’t have to choose a winner 🙂 The End. Ok seriously though, I would actually choose a good block of Swiss chocolate over pralines and I promise I’m not biased!

Anyway, if you’re visiting Brussels and want to check out some Chocolatiers, then here’s my top picks…

Galeries Royales St Hubert

The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a shopping arcade – obvious from the photos below – and is home to luxury boutiques, clockmakers and chocolate shops. Here you will find five of Belgium’s master chocolatiers including Mary, Neuhaus, Godiva, CornĂ© Port Royal and La Belgique Gourmande all offering their own unique pralines. It’s a one stop shop if you’re short on time.

Mary

Belgian master chocolatier since 1919. I loved this shop purely for the looks – the store, the packaging, all so lovely. Their range of pralines and pricing is reasonable. We did purchase a few different pralines but can’t for the life of me remember what we chose or whether we liked them compared to others so you’re just going to have to try them for yourself. Or just stop buy to admire the pretty packages.

Pierre Marcolini

If you visit this store, be sure to try the “Grand Cru” chocolates; a dark chocolate ganache made with cocoa from Venezuela, Java and Madagascar. Elegant black boxes will ensure that your purchases can be safely transported home unless you eat them all before you arrive at your final destination! Pierre Marcolini introduces a new collection each season and the craftmanship is superb, we didn’t see anything like it in any of the other chocolatiers. Eggs and bunnies were in season when we visited since we were there around Easter.

Le Comptoir de Mathilde

Ok so it’s not quite a Belgian master chocolatier and it is actually French, but this little shop is well worth the visit. It has chocolate, of course, in many varying forms (but not the praline sort) as well as many other yummy things to tempt you. If you emerge from here in under half an hour and without sampling everything and without purchasing even the smallest piece of chocolate, I will be very impressed and will likely never be your friend!

Elisabeth

We didn’t stop to buy anything from Elisabeth but I was drawn to it for two reasons; it shares its name with my mother and it had giant meringues.

Well that’s about as much chocolate as I can handle for one day. I know that there are plenty more things to see and do in Brussels but with only a few hours to kill in this city, I think we spent it wisely!

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Weekend in ChampĂ©ry, Switzerland

19 Feb

Wow! Has it really been more than one month since I posted a Cheese & Vegemite tale? There is so much to catch up on so I’m going to go ahead and get started by telling you about our ski-turned-hiking trip to ChampĂ©ry in January.

My husband and I are still in the beginners phase of our respective skiing journeys and wanted to get a few good sessions in this winter so before we shipped off back to Australia for the Christmas holidays we booked a hotel and some ski lessons in Champéry in January. Little did we know that the snow season would start off slowly and leave us with brown patchy pistes for our weekend.  We concluded that our first ski of the season would be rather unpleasant in such conditions so we opted to chill out for the weekend and enjoy a few local hikes instead.

We had not been to ChampĂ©ry before and chose it primarily because of its close proximity to Geneva and direct access to Les Portes du Soleil – the world’s largest internationally ski domain with 194 ski lifts. There is certainly a wide range of winter activities to be enjoyed in the region – when there is snow of course – including skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and sledding. Fortunately for us there is over 800km of trails to wander although with our decision to take it a bit easier we didn’t walk very far from the center of town. We followed a few hiking/snowshoe trails but there was definitely no need for snowshoes. Here’s a few snaps from our little walks.

The village itself features beautifully kept wood chalets with cute storefronts and numerous restaurants and bars all within walking distance. Overlooking ChampĂ©ry are the 7 spectacular peaks of Les Dents du Midi (at a height of 3257 metres or 10,686 feet). You can catch a glimpse of these towering beauties from just about every street/hotel/restaurant in ChampĂ©ry and Val d’Illiez meaning we got plenty of photo opportunities. See for yourself

We are so blessed to live in such a beautiful country! We still have not been skiing yet but as soon as we do I will share my experience with you 🙂

Who has been enjoying the snow season this year? I’d love to hear your stories.

My Interview with Expat Blog Published Online

9 Jan

Hi guys, check out my interview on Expat Blog!

http://www.expat-blog.com/en/interview/137_sarah-in-geneva.html

This is a great community of expat bloggers from around the world with so many interesting stories of daily life abroad and I just love being apart of it.

If you’re an expat and you’re a blogger, why not become part of the Expat Blog community.

FoulĂ©es Automnales de Meyrin 10KM Race

2 Jan

Autumn was packed full of activities. We started off with the Berlin Marathon, followed by a weekend of hiking in and around Kandersteg, then there was the Lausanne Marathon where I ran the 10KM, followed by another weekend of hiking in Emmental and another 10KM race at the end of November.

The FoulĂ©es Automnales de Meyrin is a little local fun run around Meyrin – Meyrin is our neighbouring commune and a short hop, skip and jump from our apartment. Just over 100 women participated in the race while almost 300 men dominated the course. It was a beautifully clear day and we were due to set off at 13h30. I wasn’t feeling up to running though, after a girl’s night out the night before, and knowing all the hills that were part of the course did not help to ease my thoughts of wanting to hitch a tram ride back to the apartment. I didn’t really prepare for this race either; I did maybe 3 or 4 short runs in the 4 weeks leading up to this race… so yeah, not ideal.

It was a nice course (apart from all the hills), touring around Meyrin and finishing at the stadium (official name but by no means a “stadium”). My legs held up their part of the bargain but I had a stitch for the most part of the race so again not ideal conditions. Must have been the wraps I had for lunch just before the race.. normally I don’t eat before a midday run. I finished in 51m13s and could not have been happier to have finished!

Note to self : It pays to have a good sleep and proper practiced nutrition before a race 🙂

Coming up next.. The final run for 2013 and Christmas in Australia

Weekend Hiking in Emmental

22 Nov

Emmental, a dairy region in central Switzerland, famous for its Emmental cheese (or the Swiss cheese with holes in it) and Kambly biscuits.

A beautiful area of rolling hills and green pastures and views of the Swiss Alps. My husband had planned a two-day hike for us to do last weekend and the weather was looking to be good – chilly and overcast but no chance of rain equals perfect hiking conditions.

We packed our bags and headed to Burgdorf on Friday night after work, about 2 hours by train from Geneva. We stayed the night in Burgdorf before starting our hike from Langnau on Saturday.

*You will notice a theme throughout the weekend… can you guess what it is*

Burgdorf

On Saturday morning before starting our hike we took a quick turn around Burgdorf. A typical Swiss town; super cute and totally quiet in the early morning.

Day 1 Hike : Langnau to Eggiwil

The map below is from the national hiking trails website and the route we had planned to follow – 10km of easy hiking.

Trans Swiss Trail - Langnau to Eggiwil

Trans Swiss Trail – Langnau to Eggiwil

This what we ended up doing – 17km of moderate intensity hiking

My Garmin - Langnau to Eggiwil

My Garmin – Langnau to Eggiwil

All through Switzerland, hiking trails are marked by small yellow signs, some with place names and arrows, some just a marker. Right at the start we missed on of the signs and started walking in the wrong direction. We found ourselves in Emmenmatt after 2.5km, not a place we were suppose to be walking through on our way to Eggiwil. My husband had said that the first few kilometers were all uphill and so when we had been walking on fairly flat ground for 2.5km we did start to wonder what was going on. After a quick read of our map (thank goodness we printed them out!) we backtracked the 2.5km and started “up” the right path. Here’s what we saw along the way…

We passed by one local dairy farmer who provides milk to the Emmentaler cheese dairy. Over 150 farmers provide more than 28,000 litres of fresh cows milk every day for the production of just 20 wheels of cheese each day. I’m sure this place would be more lively in the summer months so we may just have to come back.

We also made a slight detour via Blapbach for a pit stop at the Restaurant Blapbach. This restaurant is famous for its meringues, yum 🙂

We stayed at Gasthof Baren (a popular name for Guesthouses in the Bern canton) in Eggiwil – the only guests I think – which was quite cosy and enjoyable.

Day 2 Hike : Eggiwil to Trubschachen

For this part of our weekend hike we joined two hikes together. Unfortunately I can’t show you on the Swiss hiking website but here is what my Garmin showed – 15km of moderate intensity hiking

My Garmin - Eggiwil to Trubschachen

My Garmin – Eggiwil to Trubschachen

We didn’t take any wrong turns this time! We started off just after 9am and this is what we saw along the way to Trubschachen…

With such a rapid increase in elevation, it wasn’t long before we hit snow. Green pastures and autumn coloured leaves soon turned to white. It was a fairly steep climb but we took it slowly and stopped every now and again to take some photos and greet some alpacas. The sun almost broke through the clouds at Pfyffer but we were sadly unlucky.

Upon arriving in Trubschachen, I could smell freshly baked bread, like a bakery smell. To my surprise, the Kambly factory was located in Trubschachen! Kambly has been making biscuits in Switzerland for more than 100 years. There is no tour of the factory, no tourist video to watch, only a small cafe and shop selling the biscuits.

Did I mention free tasting of ALL the biscuits? Yep, that’s right, free tasting! The absolute best way to end a weekend of hiking.

So, did any of you guess the theme of our weekend? Anyone? How about the fog? Did any one notice the fog? I’ve seen photos of what scenery we should have been able to see on this hike but unfortunately for us we were enveloped in a thick hazy of cloud all weekend long. *sigh*

Stay tuned for more hiking tales from Switzerland xx

Autumn in Geneva + An Autumn Recipe

11 Nov

Has it really been 11 days since I last posted something on this blog of mine? Really??

The weeks are just flying by and before we know it December will be upon us and that means Christmas, winter and snow and cold and before I get carried away I should probably get on with the fact that we’re loving Autumn! So what have we been up to?

We went to our little farm down the road to pick up some pumpkins and chestnuts…

We went for a little stroll in Meyrin…

Then we had a few little dinner parties at our place and thus begins the cooking tales of the past few weeks.

Even before I started planning the menu for this particular dinner party I knew I wanted to have an “Autumn” sort of theme.

Switzerland is so very unlike Australia when it comes to food shopping. Australia is such a large country with space and varying climates to grow just about anything all year round and you can therefore buy most fruits and vegetable from the supermarket all year round. Switzerland on the other hand is a tiny country which imports a lot of its fruit and vegetables and as a result only stocks those that are currently in season.

My husband and I have discussed this often and agree that eating according to the seasons is much more exciting. It’s Autumn now and we’re excited about the new Apple varieties coming in, pears, pumpkins, root vegetables… Oh what fun!

Anyway, back to my little autumn dinner. The menu I finally settled on consisted of a Polenta toast starter with Olive Tapenade and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, followed by a Mustard and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts wrapped in Proscuitto and a Pear and Almond Tart for dessert. I have made this tart three times now and it never fails to impress and never fails to taste 100% delicious!! So I’m going to share this recipe with you.

Pear and Almond Tart

Courtesy of Donna Hay
  • 90g butter, softened
  • ½ cup (90g) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (120g) almond meal
  • ÂĽ cup (40g) plain flour (or gluten-free flour for a gluten-free dessert)
  • ÂĽ teaspoon baking powder (or gluten-free powder for a gluten-free dessert)
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered
  • ½ cup (90g) brown sugar, extra
  • raw sugar, for sprinkling
  • double (thick) cream, to serve

Weekend Hiking in the Bernese Oberland

16 Oct

Hiking in Kandersteg in the canton of Bern

Now that the marathon training has finished and we have both recovered (physically) from the event we are taking the opportunity to do some other forms of physical activity, like hiking! The weather throughout most of Europe was predicted to be less an accommodating to our outdoor adventure plans but my wonderfully resourceful husband found a small pocket of landscape in the Bernese Oberland that looked promising. Thanks babe!

After packing a few essentials we caught the train on Saturday morning from Geneva to Kandersteg via Brig.

Day 1: Kandersteg to Selden

11km, 500m incline, 3h20m (suggested timing).

Oh my goodness, everything was white already!! I was not prepared for this. I’m struggling to come to grips with the cooler weather as it is let alone preparing for proper winter and snow and below freezing temperatures. It was a sight that I was not prepared for and promptly told my husband so all the while being astounded at his excitement for all things white and wonderful! Who is this person I married? I must admit though that I was really excited to be out and about, doing something physical other than running and exploring these beautiful parts of Switzerland.

The weather looked promising although after the snowfalls on Thursday and Friday night we donned our gators as we thought the trail could get a bit slushy. We started off after a quick bite to eat at the Kandersteg train station cafe (a piece of salami between two pieces of bread for chf 6, hmm) and sure enough the trails turned snowy very quickly. There were even some parts of the trail that had not been walked on in a few days (as evidenced by the unadulterated snow cover) so we made sure to create lots of fresh new footprints.. hehe.. a bit childish but so much fun! Puddles had iced over and I managed to pick up a huge piece of ice from one puddle – how cool is that!!

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Weekend in Berlin

9 Oct

Berlin, Germany

We spent a wonderful weekend in Berlin in September. We were there for the Marathon (you can read about that here) and stayed on for a few days for some shopping and sightseeing. Berlin is a fascinating city, full of history, alive with culture, constantly redefining themselves. There’s a mix of old and new; buildings that survived the war, new buildings built to look like old one’s, and new modern architecture replacing the old. Then there’s street food, pub food, fine dining restaurants. I’m sure that no matter what you are into, Berlin has something for everyone to enjoy.

We stayed at the Hilton (swanky!!), chosen for its proximity to the Brandenburg Tor and the start of the marathon. It’s the fanciest place we’ve stayed in for a looooooooong time so I had to get a picture.

When visiting a city for the first time, we like to join a walking tour on the first day to get an overview of the city, its main landmarks and attractions, to get our bearings and to decide on what we might want to see again later on. Berlin is quite a large city so we chose a Fat Tire Bike Tour for our city highlights tour. The 4h full day biking tour included stops at Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall, Hitler’s Bunker, Watchtower, Luftwaffe Ministry, Victory Column, Soviet War Memorial, Reichstag, Museum Island, Bebelplatz, and of course lunch in a beer garden. Our guide was Sumi. Not only did she have a vast knowledge of 16th Century through to modern day history of Berlin and Germany but she was very pleasant to listen to and was not deterred by the marathon road blocks (2 days prior) en route to the Brandenburg Tor. I would highly recommend the tour and Sumi!

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Weekend in Budapest

18 Sep

Budapest, Hungary

I’ve come to realise that one of the best things about living in Geneva is its central location in Europe and close proximity to other cities. And with EasyJet flying to most major cities in Europe we have so many opportunities to discover the many interesting countries that make up Europe. We’ve made a plan to travel to a new destination one weekend per month and September saw us spending a 2 short days in Budapest.

We flew in early Saturday morning and started our tour in Buda with a walk through the Castle Quarter, a Unesco World Heritage site. There are two parts to the Castle Quarter;

The Royal Palace

The Old Town

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Running in Geneva

13 Sep

Just a few pics from my run along the lake last night. Love running in my “current” hometown.

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