The weather here in KL has reached 36°C and all I can think about is ice cream. Feeling inspired after having a scoop of salted caramel ice cream in Hokkaido Ice Cream in The Garden Mall, I went in search of recipes. I was very pleased that this splendid flavour was now available in KL. I’ve only ever had salted caramel in Paris (the best is from Berthillon). I found a recipe I am keen to try. Upon finding this recipe, I was keen to explore other flavours and thought that a pandan coconut flavour would be very nice indeed. I looked it up and found this.
There are some flavours that are almost universal in their appeal. Pandan is such a flavour. Pandan’s power lies in its versatility. It is not limited to Asian dishes. I made pandan pannacotta earlier this year, to serve as dessert for my Chinese New Year meal. I made the pannacotta in a rabbit mould and this resulted in the wobbly little creature above. In the UK, pandan can be bought from most Oriental supermarkets. If you live in London, Golden Gate Cake Shop on Macclesfield Street sells pandan layer cake. My sister and I have since started obsessing over pandan macarons. Since being back in KL, I have had them twice. They are, as you can imagine, seriously delicious. These can be ordered specially from The Huckleberry Cafe. I have not seen this concoction sold anywhere else.
I find it quite strange that in a city like KL – where there must be the highest number of foodies per capita in the world and the most interesting mixtures of flavours and fusion food, I have yet to see pandan used in other European desserts. Pandan coconut meringue pie, pandan cream puffs, pandan coconut crepes…mmmm I can see so many possibilities! Someone, make ’em a reality!
For entertaining, Seletti has a robust offering of products in their World Map series. I love the placemats best. It is sold in packs of 50 with a selection of city maps from London, New York, Tokyo and Paris.
Seletii also has ceramic world map dinnerware for sale. The placemats remind me of these lovely wrapping paper sold in Magma which is probably the next best thing to wrap presents in after plain brown paper. I was in New York recently and the conversation at dinner turn towards maps. Liam mentioned a map on race and ethnicity in New York City he’d seen.
This led me to Frank Jacobs’ Strange Maps. I like the Gridding of London and the Nightclub Map of Harlem produced at the end of the Prohibition charting funtimes. Frank Jacobs has since been published and his book Strange Maps can be bought here
If my dreams were made of scarves, Lucy Jay’s scarves would easily furnish them. Her cool little collection of scarves named Bryan, Claire, Patrick, Irene and Lucy are anything but ordinary. The motifs are almost graphical analysis of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films in eye-popping colours on silk.
The Patrick print is a bit of a cyclops. I love this and I find this amusing and wish more of my scarves had character. Lucy’s lookbook show you that her scarves aren’t just scarves. Check the number of ways you can tie these silk scarves.
The Lucy scarf makes a nice bandeau, perfect for the balmy days we’ve been experiencing in London.
My personal favourite. What a fabulous way with long tresses. Lucy Jay. She’s one to look out for. She’s a bit of a rising star and a lovely, lovely girl with an abundance of talent.
Let me introduce you to my faithful friend, a little man named Hank. He has been my travel companion in a bit of a journey, a scenic route from Milan to London. He is faceless, but he stuck with me all through this adventure. I wonder if he is faceless because sailors are the forgotten faces that passed through the ports.
I was in Milan for work. I left on Sunday night and was scheduled to be back on Thursday morning, straight into work. And then the sky produced a spectacular sunset and the volcanic ash cloud, a real black cloud covered the UK and quickly all over Europe changing the course I would take to head home.
Easyjet put me on a coach with some other passengers and we were taken to the magical Lago Maggiore, just outside Milan. During the hour long journey, I was in a queue to speak to Easyjet and to organise a new flight home. After the 3rd attempt I got through and was told that I could be put on a flight home the next evening. That’s when we arrived in Lago Maggiore. And it was breathtakingly beautiful.
I was torn. I did not know whether I was upset that I’d woken up at 5am to catch this early flight that had been cancelled or that this was an unexpected opportunity to see a new place and not be in the office! I had no idea where I was and it seem like nobody knew either. The scenery left me speechless.
So I decided to go with my natural holiday spirit and to drop the bags and sit in the sun, soaking in the scenery.
I checked into the Hotel Villa Carlotta. My room had a balcony and was lake-facing. Up to this point, I still had no idea where I was. Not having much geographical knowledge, I had to ask before I found out. I was more muddled about the name of the town because when I went out to explore that Thursday afternoon, I asked for a map and was given one for Stresa. So that’s where I thought we were. And it wasn’t until after not being able to find any of the roads or landmarks on the map that with more enquiries, I realised it was the little stretch called Belgirate.
I went in search for the attractions in the area. I found an old church on the top of the hill, resting higher than the train tracks. It was such a lovely day. The skies were blue and not a cloud in sight! By this time, I’d rearranged my plans and was now flying into Paris on Sunday and catching the first available Eurostar on Tuesday. I thought that I was going to be more than fine. I was giving myself two days to reach Paris should my flight end up being cancelled. So, on with this hill trek. I will find this church, I will enjoy this. I mean, what views! It’s the Swiss alps, check that snow out!
And by this church, a quiet cemetery. I thought to myself that this was not a bad place to rest in the afterlife.
I quickly found out that I’d covered the one major attraction. I was feeling a little bored and mainly anxious as this black cloud of ash looked like it was going to be more trouble than everyone had expected. I was glued to the news, waiting for updates constantly. I went for walks. And I found roses. I took photos.
Squint and you will see the Swiss alps, covered in snow like a cool icey dessert. Look at what’s in front of you. Without the rose-tinted glasses, reality hit me hard.
My flight to Paris was supposed to be on Sunday morning. On Saturday, I panicked. I even went a bit hysterical. I’d slept badly the last few nights because my sleep was fueled by nervous energy and my dreams, were anxiety driven. I had to go. I felt that I’d come under the spell of Lago Maggiore. The tranquility, a welcome break after being in Milan during the Salone was now turning eerie. I started to believe that if I did not make a run for it, I could end up living here forever.
I left. I went to Stresa and it was very pretty there too. But I’d broken the spell. I was no longer interested. I was single-minded. I wanted to survive. I wanted to be home. Both homes. I wanted to be back in London home and I also wanted to be back by Wednesday for my trip back to Malaysia.
After an unsuccessful Saturday evening of queuing up for over two hours in Centrale, only to be told by the unhelpful lady that all trains to Paris were booked until May and a dash to the bus terminal, only to find it as chaotic as the train station. Ticket holders were fighting with each other to get onto coaches.
I felt broken. I was in tears. I had had enough. I wanted to be back. Urged to stay calm, and with another night’s bad sleep, a new plan had been hatched. Guy had been thinking about it and thought that I was to find a way into France, Lyon perhaps. And make my way to Paris.
Sunday morning, I woke up at 6 something from worry. I headed to Centrale again. I queued for about an hour (easy, after the day before). This time I was told they could offer me Nice and that was it.
I went for it. I had a ticket in my hand and I felt hope. A tgv train ticket from Nice to Paris was booked online. My wonderful friend Jess booked it for me. So I was off to Nice and Jess used to live there. I immediately felt like I was closer to home. I could see the light and I should celebrate!
I celebrated with Nutella on the go! It’s the perfect trainride snack. There is ice-tea in one corner, breadsticks and nutella. I even found the Sunday papers. I was all set! I listened to some music. I felt relaxed enough to enjoy and my journey out of Milan was sountracked by Floating Points’ XLR8R podcast. I sat in a compartment with four other travelers. A man who was wearing double denim, which I’ve read is oh so fashionable. He wasn’t even trying to be fashionable. You knew he’d been dressing this way since his youth. He had travelled from Vienna and was making his way to Avignon; a mother and daughter going on holiday and would have normally taken the train and a lovely lady from Stuttgart. Crystal was jolly. She was also determined not to let the ash cloud ruin her holiday. She had friends to see! So she’d been traveling for over 20 hours and had a car journey ahead of her. She was tired but we were both excited as we got on the train from Vingtimilla to Nice.
I reached Nice at night, it was dark but the route was so scenic. The weather was beautiful, but I was on a train. I could see the sea and it made me happy. I had to collect my ticket and this took another hour of queuing in the train station. The next morning, I woke up early. I wanted to see a bit Nice, I wanted to see what it was all about.
It was sun, sea and stripes! I was wearing stripes! I had Hank with me! I felt good. I was in France and I had a ticket in my fist for the 1035 to Gare du Lyon. And I saw this:
And yes. It was all going to be fine. I am going to make my Eurostar on Tuesday morning. And Hank was still with me. I have been very lucky. I was not left camping in airports and I wasn’t going to be stranded for much longer. This adventure only made me realise,that not unlike thinking about where your sausages and bacon comes from, modern travel has made us forget the actual miles between places. It is not until you move around countries to get to your final destination that you can really understand and appreciate that the quote about traveling being about the journey and not the destination has a lot of truth in it.
So I came home the scenic route, I met some interesting people, I felt loneliness, craziness and excitement too. I am glad to be back in London and I miss the sight of the lake and sea. And to be honest I’ve always wanted to take the train across Europe. I find train journeys old fashioned and romantic. And for all the hassle, for all the worry, I have returned with a story to tell. That’s not a bad thing at all.
One lazy weekend afternoon in March, we headed into Soho to view Alice Anderson‘s exhibition, Time Reversal. Walking on Beak Street, you will be struck by the odd sight of seeing hair falling over the front of this building in Soho like a heavy curtain. Like a supersized, modern version Rapunzel-esque tale, this installation draws you in.
Inside 1000s of metres of dolls’ hair shoot out from the fireplace and fill the room. The auburn hair catches the sunlight beautifully and you will end up standing and staring at this web of hair and admiring how beautiful and golden it looks in the sun.
It makes for a slightly eerie, and most definitely captivating sight. Like a freak show, you are invited to see the rest of the exhibition for a pound. Upstairs there are various sculptures featuring a doll theme and creep downstairs you can watch the 9 minute film which is part of the exhibition, The Day I Became A Doll.
For me, the exhibition’s biggest draw was the hair installation. The film with its references to gothic horror (which I love) and a study on the mother-daughter relationship, was a bit contrived. This exhibition runs until 24th April so catch it in the Riflemaker Gallery before it ends. Believe me, it makes a nice escape from the madness of the city centre being in a room of hair.
Speaking of escaping, I went to Kensington Palace for the Enchanted Palace exhibition. Drawn by its poster and by the designers involved including Vivienne Westwood, Boudicca and Stephen Jones, I took a bite. A poisoned apple it wasn’t, but it was slightly disappointing. Mainly because with magical fairytales, it is easy for the imagination to take over and reality, even with the help of digital projections and theater sets, will never match that of the mind!
Having said that, there were quite a few things I loved in the exhibition. The tear jars on display were magnificent and I left lusting after jewel-encrusted apple headband and the paper dress by Echo Morgan in the Room of the World
Photos below are via Style Bubble as photography was not allowed in the exhibition.
It still made for a fun afternoon which ended with a berry meringue served with thick cream and fresh berries in The Orangery.
London. I love how it’s so easy to disappear into a modern day fairytale here.
Glass Candy’s first official video has just been released. The bigger news here for me is that they have a new single released. Feeling Without Touching can be previewed on Resident Advisor, here. The best thing for me is being able to watch Ida No dance, which always inspires me to dance in exactly the same way.
On this single is the epic “Covered In Bugs” which makes me want to close my eyes and soak it all up.
I am sorry to find out that I’ll be back home in Malaysia when Glass Candy play in my local, Plan B. I usually have to go across London to go out and finally one of my favourite bands on my favourite label plays locally and I’m away on the other side of the world. Why? Gutted.