Welcome to my happy place!

The Plaka and Monastiraki neighborhoods in Athens have their own characteristic air. There are lots of cafes and restaurants where  one can spend hours over a tall glass of chilled frappe or fill themselves up with the delicious local cuisine. The many souvenir shops sell curious mementos, attractive garments and exotic pieces of art. Strolling around these streets hand in hand with my husband, no real goal or destination in mind, was one of the most relaxing part of my trip to Athens.

Ambling around

A rare combination

Take home a memento for your dear ones

In case you need a bag to carry those mementos, you’ll find a pretty one too

For the sweet tooth

A much-needed frappe break

I will definitely remember that meat platter for a long time, mmmm!

Back to strolling and shopping

A most colorful day

“Key is in the lock all right, sir. On the inside. Mr. Ackroyd must have locked himself in.”

Just finished reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by my all-time favorite Agatha Christie. As you must know, her books are next only to the Bible & Shakespeare‘s works as the most widely read publication ever. Over the years I have read several of her novels, but this latest read has made a bigger fan out of me, if that were even possible. I quite love the old English charm that is evident in the setting and the language of the time. This book has all the Agatha Christie staples – the secretive characters, the multiple motives, the sure-shot alibis. But of course, Hercule Poirot is at his best even at the hay end of his career as he breaks the case down bit by bit. The plot turns in the most unexpected way towards the end and makes one want to re-read the book all over again, in the newly revealed light. A highly recommended book.

“There are five elements: earth, air, fire, water and garlic.”

                                                                                            ~Louis Diat

Well, in my kitchen that saying holds good, ‘coz I love my garlic in pastas & curries & soups. Of course not in excess but I do like a decent dash of the sharp flavor and aroma that it lends to a dish. The other day I realized I had amassed quite a stockpile of garlic by forgetting how much I already had in the house. Now, I hate food going to waste, so I had to find a thrifty solution, and quickly before they started to dry up. Thanks to the internet, there is hardly ever a search that does not yield the desired results. The answer to my question – freeze them!

As instructed by several food writers, I peeled all the cloves that I wanted to put away in storage and gave them a good whizz in the food processor. I left them a bit chunky, just because. Then, in they went into ice trays, about one teaspoon in each compartment. Into the freezer, overnight. As many of you might be wondering, I did have trepidation about what if they smell out my whole freezer, but that never happened, I guess freezing the garlic kind of freezes the smell too…does that make sense? So there’s nothing to worry about.

The next day, I pulled out the trays, popped out the frozen garlic cubes, popped them back into a sealed freezer bag and into the freezer again. I have read that garlic can be stored in this way for up to several weeks. So now I have a stash of garlic ready to be used anytime I need. And since they are measured  out into 1tsp units, that makes it all the more easier to bring out just as much as needed in the recipe at hand.

Do you use frugal storage methods too? I’d love to hear about them!

Runner, runner

Mr.A has signed up for a 5 km run next month & it’s about time he started preparing for it. Yesterday, while he ran, I biked alongside & we found ourselves at the Ulriksdal Slott (palace) which is a stone’s throw away from our home. I have never been inside the castle per se, but the grounds are great for rides or runs or walks with paths running around the pretty flower gardens and around the placid Lake Edsviken. The grounds also house several neat little out-houses and a couple of beautiful chapels. The castle and lake can be reached by a short 10 min ride on the pendeltåg (commuter train) from Stockholm T-Central (the central station) to Ulriksdal station, followed a walk or a bus ride from there. 

On one of our recent trips we had the opportunity to spend a good number of hours in transit in Brussels. Neither the Mister nor I had been there before so instead of doing the boring wait-at-the-airport-and-read-a-magazine thing, we decided to dump our luggage in the lockers and head out to the city to check out the sights. We had also heard from friends that we could do it all in a day, so we, being the itchy-toes that we are, had no reason to do anything but!

First look at Brussels from above the clouds

First off, there are a few things to know about the airport & getting to the city:

  • You can rent luggage lockers on Level 0 at the airport. They cost €7.50 for 24 hrs. You pay €1 when you lock in your bags, and pay the rest when you collect them.
  • Beware, the lockers only accept coins, so make sure you have some ready. There are change machines near the lockers but they are out of order currently.
  • There are busses and trains to the city. The return train fare to Brussels Centraal is €14.50, which is quite the more expensive option and takes you about 15-20 mins either way. I guess the bus is the more economical choice and would not take more than 45-60mins, if you have the time to spare.
  • Once we got to the city, we bought the day pass for €7.50 each which allows unlimited trips on the metro, tram and buss networks for 24 hours.

At Brussels Centraal station

Stop#1 – Atomium & Mini Europe: The Atomium is a very cool building that resembles an atom structure. The globes that represent the ‘atoms’ are actually rooms that house exhibitions and a restaurant at the top. The ‘bonds’ on the other hand are escalators that connect the several rooms. It’s quite a cool building and photographs very vividly against the sky due to the comparatively shorter buildings in the surrounding areas. We did not spend time inside the Atomium though.

Atomium

Atomium

The Mini-Europe is a collection of several eminent European buildings and heritage sites, built on a reduced scale of 1: 25. The miniature models are set in manicured gardens with little water-works. It is definitely a fun place for children, but as adults, we were quite happy to be there, too. You can see the Tower of Pisa, the Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower, the Berlin Wall, Copenhagen’s Nyhavn waterfront, and our very own Stockholm City Hall, to name a few recreations. The guide book included in the ticket price provides interesting trivia about the models on display.

                    

  

Stop#2 - Grand Place or Central Square: This is the old town part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several beautiful & interesting old buildings stand facing on the inside and spread out in a way so as to create the Central Square in the middle, with seven different strets leading into the square. Every two years in August, this Grand Place is covered in a carpet of begonia flowers. I am sure that must be a lovely sight, as proven by these amazing online photos. Very remarkable in architecture are the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) and the Maison du Roi (City Museum). It is the most visited tourist place in Brussels as was obvious from the sight of click-happy people around, and yes, I was surely one of the most ‘clicky’ kind among them. And don’t forget to get some waffles while you are in Belgium ;) I know, I know, the Belgian waffle isn’t Belgian at all, but hey, who says no to a good waffle anywhere in the world, duh!

Stop#3 - Manneken-Pis: Like the Little Mermaid of Copenhagen, I found this a bit of a let-down honestly. It is simply impossible to get a decent picture of this little peeing boy without getting a stranger’s arm or head in the way. The bronze sculpture is just about two feet tall and is placed at the corner of two lanes. It is said to have been stolen many times. Given to its popularity, the Manneken-Pis is dressed up in curious costumes from time to time. On the day of our visit he was a Musketeer, no less!

A little bronze peeing musketeer…

Stop#4 - Parc du Cinquantenaire or Jubelpark: Next stop was this serene spot of greenery. We had started the day really early and by this time we were both so exhausted with all the walking since morning. So we crashed on the grass for a while and got our energies back on track. A triumphal arch set in the middle of a U-shaped complex of building is the centerpiece of the park.

Stop#5 - Parlamentarium: Last stop was at the Parlementarium, ot the visitors’ center at the European Parliament. The building looks very impressive. It’s a pity we could not take a tour of the inside, though. And then we sprinted to get the train back to the airport to get back in time for our next flight. All in a day’s work!

Have you ever done a city-in-a-day trip? Leave a comment with the link to your post, I’d love to hear all about it!

 

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